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The Fern Sidman Commentaries:

As we take this time to reflect on the events of the past year, the Jewish nation is faced with the stark realities of its future. There is no question that the state of affairs of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation have ominous overtones of Europe in 1938. Global anti-Semitism has seen a dramatic rise and the incidents of blatant Jew hatred have catapulted to new and dangerous levels.

Terrorist organizations of all stripes and ilks in the Middle East have increased their political and military strength and are gearing up for more major conflicts with Israel. Whiles Hamas and Fatah are engaged in their internal power struggles, their common denominator and raison d’etre still remains the complete annihilation of Israel. Hezbollah forces in Lebanon are currently re-arming and beginning the next stage in their battle to vanquish the Jewish nation.

Hezbollah’s chief sponsors, Syria and Iran have made their objectives clear in the form of bellicose rhetoric directed toward Israel, while the world applauds the words of Iranian President Ahmadinejad at the United Nations.

While the United States repeats its vows of not negotiating with terrorists and those who harbor or support them, we watch as US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice engages in direct negotiations with the very same organizations that the State Department lists as foreign terrorist organizations. According to an article by David Bedein on the Israel Resource Review web site it states:

    "Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has arrived in Israel and scheduled meetings with the Fatah, which operates the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, designated by the US State Dep’t as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) on March 27, 2002, and which remains on the official list of terrorist organizations on the US government’s terror “watch list".
Our agency asked an American government official as to how whether the US government holds Machmud Abbas, the head of the Fatah, accountable for an organization that he heads which the US Government as a terrorist organization defines.

The American government official responded, "The US Government views Abbas as the head of the Fatah, and the Fatah as separate and distinct from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade".

It would seem that this American government official is not familiar with the US State Department web site. Only ten months ago, the US State Dep’t annual report on terror in which it linked the Fatah and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades states that Al Aksa Brigades is openly linked by the US State Department to the Fatah.

The relevant sections of the annual report speak for themselves:
  • p. 126
    "Middle East and North Africa Overview:
    Terrorist activities in the Middle East and North Africa continued to be a primary concern in the global war on terror. Active extremist groups in this region includes: al-Qaida, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the al-Aqsa Martyrs ‘ Brigades (Fatah’s militant wing), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), Ansar al-Islam and its offshoot Ansar al-Sunna, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s organization, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn, a.k.a. al-Qaida of the Jihad Organization in the Land of Two Rivers (a.k.a. al-Qaida in Iraq)."

  • p. 132
    "Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
    Palestinian terrorist groups conducted a significant number of attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip even after a “period of calm” was agreed in February. All of these groups used a variety of terrorist tactics, including suicide bombs, rocket attacks, pipe bombs, mortar attacks, roadside bombings and ambushes, and shooting at Israeli homes and military and civilian vehicles. The number of victims killed in Israel in terrorist attacks was less than 50, down from the almost 100 individuals killed in 2004. Israeli security forces successfully thwarted other planned attacks. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB), HAMAS, and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) were responsible for most of these attacks.

The Fatah-Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade connection is not new.

Yael Shahar, a researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism wrote back in March 2002 that among the documents seized in a raid on the Fatah chief Arafat’s headquarters were invoices the Al-Aqsa Martyrs asking for reimbursement for, among other things, explosives used in bombings in Israeli cities.

Another document found was addressed to Brig. Gen. Fouad Shoubaki, the Palestinian Authority’s chief financial officer for military operations, and contained numerous handwritten notes and calculations, apparently added by Shoubaki’s staff.

That document was the first direct proof that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are not a "rogue militia" as Arafat had claimed earlier. Instead, its members were found to be on the Palestinian Authority’s payroll, and that its activities are financed out of Palestinian Authority coffers, and that its attacks are carried out with the knowledge and backing of Yasser Arafat’s inner Fatah circle.

Another invoice discovered in Arafat’s headquarters was dispatched by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to Shoubaki’s office, located in the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, dated 16 September 2001 outlining expenses through September 6 and asks Shoubaki’s office for money to build additional bombs, and to finance propaganda posters promoting suicide bombers.

These internal documents showed that Shoubaki was also responsible for financing the activity of the al-Aksa Brigades in the Bethlehem region, transferring monthly salaries to the organization’s activists in the area. In addition, he was involved in purchasing a cache of weapons stolen towards the end of the year 2000 from an IDF base in the area. These weapons were later used to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians in the area of Jerusalem.

Shoubaki had visited Baghdad in August 2001 in order to coordinate positions with the Iraqi government, and in May 2001 he was present at a meeting in Moscow during which the draft for joint activities between Iran and the PA was agreed upon.

In addition, documents that Israel seized from Orient House, the PA’s East Jerusalem headquarters, show that the PA had transferred funds to Fatah, the Tanzim, and its affiliated fighters.

  • Example: July 9, 2002 letter, signed by Arafat, empowered Kamil Hmeid — a Fatah leader in Bethlehem — to disburse payments to twenty-four Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades members, including Atef Abayat, an Al-Aksa commander in Bethlehem.

  • Colonel Miri Eisin, then a senior Israeli intelligence officer and now a senior advisor to Prime Minister Olmert who was the ranking officer who presented the document to the media at the time, pointed out that in the time since the letter was sent, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had carried out eight suicide bombings in Israel. In addition, the group had by then carried out about 300 attacks in which Israeli civilians were killed or wounded; including roadside ambushes, drive by shootings, and car bombings. "You could probably call this a terror invoice. How much does terrorism cost?", Eisin asked reporters.

    Even the Council on Foreign Relations, the academic group most identified as an advocate of negotiations with the PLO, revealed in 2002 that "The Al Aksa brigades are affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s al-Fatah faction. While the group initially vowed to target only Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in early 2002 it began a spree of terrorist attacks against civilians in Israeli cities. In March 2002, after a deadly al-Aqsa Brigades suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the State Department added the group to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations in early 2002; the al-Aqsa Brigades’ attacks killed more Israelis than those of Hamas".


    This week, a Fatah member and terror group leader told the World Net Daily news service in Jerusalem that the Fatah party does not recognize Israel and that any final accord that doesn’t include flooding the Jewish state with millions of Palestinians will not be supported by the Fatah party and will lead to Palestinian civil war.

    "The base of our Fatah movement keeps dreaming of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa and Acco. There is no change in our position. Abbas recognizes Israel because of pressure that the Zionists and the Americans are exercising on him. We understand this is part of his obligations and political calculations", said Abu Ahmed, Fatah member and leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip.

    Abu Ahmed went on to day that "there is an opportunistic class at the head of the Fatah leadership that for personal and political interests says it accepts the existence of Israel. There is no change in our official position. Fatah as a movement never recognized Israel. It is the PLO who did so for the reasons I mentioned."

    Abu Ahmed explained, on the record, that the Al Aqsa Brigades is "one and the same" with the Fatah party.

    "We are members of Fatah and there are normal organic relations between us and the Fatah. We are in the Al Aqsa Brigades because we are Fatah members. We participate in all political decisions making of the Fatah movement."

    Abu Ahmed told WND that Brigades members consider Abbas their legitimate leader and answer ultimately to the PA President.

    "Of course we are loyal to Abbas. He is our elected leader. We would of course prefer if his policy toward Israel was different but we understand his obligations and calculations, and we do not consider ourselves limited by these calculations," Abu Ahmed said.

    Abu Ahmed explained the difference between Hamas and Fatah is that the Fatah party "is ready to discuss a political arrangement for the Jews." And added that any arrangement must include the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians to Israel.

    THE PALESTINIAN MEDIA ITSELF TRUMPETS THE FATAH-AL AKSA LINKThe Arabic language Palestinian Authority media runs frequent news stories that feature the Fatah-Al Aksa Brigade link.

    Here are some examples:

    • On February 5th, 2005, the official website of the Al Aksa Brigades featured a letter from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades to the Fatah Revolutionary Council which quotes the late Yassir Arafat who officially declared the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade to be the "military wing" of the Fatah and that the Al Aksa Brigades would continue to follow the Fatah leadership of "the brother Abu Mazen."

    • On August 4th, 2005, the official web site of the Fatah ran an interview with a member of the revolutionary council of the Fatah in which he was asked about the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, to which he responded that the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades remain an integral part of the Fatah, and that Fatah takes pride in the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

    • On November 26th, 2005, in an "Islam on Line news" feature, a prominent Palestinian pundit noted that "a victory in the forthcoming election for the Fatah will be a victory the leaders of the Al Aksa Brigades"

    • On January 12th, 2006, the official Palestinian Authority Fatah newspaper Al Hayat editorialized that Machmud Abbas would have to use all of the Fatah’s forces in the election campaign, especially the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades From the clear documented connection between Al Aksa and the Fatah, it would seem that Secretary Rice would be hard pressed to defend herself against an allegation that she violates American law by giving sanction to an organization which operates a terrorist organization that has been designated by her own US State Department as a terrorist organization.
    So much for American promises not to negotiate with terrorists. And what of our own leaders? Why do we not hear loud and raucous protests from Israeli leaders over this flagrant violation of US policy?

    Our own leaders are paralyzed with fear, confusion and ambiguity concerning a clear cut trajectory for the future of the Jewish nation. They are of the belief that the US is sacrosanct and therefore immune to Israeli criticism of these kinds of actions. They are leaders whose density and obtuse nature is guided by ineptitude, riddled with corruption, and who remain devoid of any belief in the Divine destiny of the Jewish people. They are leaders who charter of course of suicidal destruction of Israel, by insisting on implementing a plan that would see the removal of more Jews from their homes in the settlements of Judea and Samaria, and the subsequent demolition of those communities. It is a government that does not respect the religious freedoms of Jews, as was evidenced by the confiscation of the Sukkah from Jewish Legion members in the settlement of Tapuach, and the adamant refusal by the government to return it.

    As we approach the joyous holiday of Sukkot, we stand at a precipice in Jewish history. We stand at a critical juncture in time for the Jewish nation. As the world remains silent and apathetic towards the rapid rise in Jew hatred and the increased isolation of Israel, we must come to realization that we are a people that stand alone. Our only source of comfort, salvation and hope in these trying times and always is our unwavering faith and trust in the Almighty G-d of Israel. The entire reason for our existence in this world is for the sole purpose of glorifying the name of G-d. The holiday of Sukkot speaks directly to this point.

    As the Torah tells us in Vayikra (Leviticus) (23: 42-43 ) "In booths you are to dwell for seven days …so that your generations will know that I caused the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt..." According to Rabbi Akiva, the Sukkah commemorates the greatness of the Jewish people. Their faith in G-d was so complete and so total that they traveled into the uninhabitable desert wasteland at G-d’s command. In this wasteland, the Jews did not even have permanent dwellings, but merely booths, trusting in G-d that He would care for their every need in the wilderness, which of course, He did.

    The Sukkah is reminiscent of the Clouds of Glory that protected the nation of Israel during their journey in the desert (Talmud, Sukkot 11b). The Sukkah reminds us that we remain completely reliant on G-d’s mercy, and protected by His constant presence. Our joy on Sukkot is "complete not when the harvest is reaped and our barns filled to overflowing, but when we dwell in the Sukkah and realize that G-d is the true source of our security".

    And so for an entire week, we live our warm, comfortable homes and dwell in the Sukkah, for this is the ultimate act of faith and trust in the Almighty G-d of Israel. We leave our homes not in the summer when the weather is amenable to outdoor living; however we do so at a time when the weather turns colder. The Sukkah reminds us that our life on earth is unstable and transitory, and that we must maximize each moment. We must spend each moment in servitude to the Almighty, taking steps to exalt His holy name.

    The Sukkah provides us with a unique closeness with G-d. Gazing at the stars through the greenery of the ‘chach (roof covering), we experience a connection to G-d that is almost palpable. Source: Essence of the Holy Days. The Sukkah reminds us of the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple). Just as the Jews would leave their homes and journey to the Temple’s courtyard, so too we leave our homes and enter the Sukkah. Source: The Joy of Succos (the ‘fas Emes). The Sukkah symbolizes a chuppah (marriage canopy), reminding us of the “marriage” between G-d and the Jewish people. Source: ‘fas Emes: The Joy of Succos. The mitzvah of the Sukkah involves the entire body, thus reminding us that our entire body and soul - our entire essence - must be involved in the service of G-d.

    The Sukkah represents not only a place of honor in this world, but also a taste of what is to be found in the World To Come. In fact, the Talmud (Bava Basra 75a) refers to the reward given to the righteous in the hereafter as a "sukkah". Source: ‘fas Emes (The Three Festivals). The Sukkah is the embodiment of the potential for Jewish unity. The Sukkah is an inviting meeting place for Jews of all stations where they can join together and be at one with G-d. The Talmud (Sukkah 27b) states that "the entire nation of Israel may, and ought to, dwell in a single Sukkah". Each Jew, no matter how far he or she has strayed from her/his Jewish roots during the year, can band together with fellow Jews in the shelter of G-d’s embrace. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’tl, wrote, "the Sukkah represents a oneness so deep and all embracing that all distinctions pale in significance before it." Sources: Week in Review; ‘fas Emes (The Three Festivals).

    There is another commandment which is also unique to Sukkot - the commandment to take the Four Species. In Vayikra - Leviticus (23:40) the verse says "And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of a goodly tree, branches of palm trees, the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days." The Gemora in the tractate of Sukkah (35a) explains the verse as follows: the "fruit of a goodly tree" is an Esrog (citron); the branch of the palm tree is the Lulav; the "boughs of thick trees" are Hadasim (myrtle); and, the "willows of the brook" are Aravos (willow branches).

    The Esrog represents the heart, the Lulav represents the body, the Hadassim represent the eyes and the Arovos represent the mouth. Taken together, these Four Species represent the unification of the person in the service of G-d. The Four Specifies represent the components of the Jewish people: (a) the Esrog (a tasty fruit with a pleasant aroma) represents one who possess both Torah knowledge and good deeds; (b) the Lulav (a branch of a date palm which produces a sweet fruit but has no fragrance) represents one who is proficient in Torah but lacks good deeds; (c) the Hadassim (which are sweet smelling but produce no edible fruit) represent one who performs good deeds but is deficient in Torah knowledge; and (d) the Arovos (which are both odorless and tasteless) represent one who lacks both Torah and good deeds. Taken together, the Four Species symbolize the totality of the Jewish people, all extending a helping hand to one another, all striving toward the same goals: fulfillment of the Torah to the best of their ability, thereby proclaiming to all humankind that G-d is the Creator and Master of the universe. Taken together, the Four Species further signify that each group contributes its particular qualities and strength to the communal whole.

    On this holiday of Sukkot, let us raise our collective voices to the Heavens and proclaim the Oneness of G-d and let us remember that it is G-d alone and our service to Him that will insure our salvation as a people and as a nation.
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