Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, Faces Another Imprisonment

 

bassem3-300x200
Bassem Tamimi, 45, a Palestinian protest organizer and grassroots activist from the village of Nabi Saleh, was arrested last Wednesday, October 24, during a demonstration inside Sha’ar Benyamin settlement, east of Ramallah.

As the demonstration came to an end, several Israeli police officers violently detained Tamimi, breaking three of his ribs in the process. He was subsequently interrogated on participating in an unauthorized demonstration and assault of a police officer.

During his latest prison stint, which ended only in March, Tamimi was recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union and pronounced a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was convicted of protest-organizing related charges, and sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment, as well as a 17-month suspended sentence that now looms over his head.

Tamimi’s arrest has already been extended twice by a military judge, who denied him bail, “because of his burdening past, pending suspended sentence and recent imprisonment”. An indictment against Tamimi will be filed tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Ofer Military Court by the Israeli Military Prosecution, which is expected to petition to extend Tamimi’s remand until the end of legal proceedings against him.Nariman Tamimi, Bassem’s wife, said today, “According to military law, Palestinians don’t have a right to demonstrate – all protest is illegal. An Israeli military judge told my husband that if he exercises his right to protest again, he will spend 17 months in prison. Well, he wouldn’t sit quietly at home, and now they want to try and punish him for that”.

Background
Bassem Tamimi’s previous detention spanned between March 2011 to March 2012. He was indicted on protest-organizing charges, and has spent 13 months in jail. His trial has shed light on systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ right during police interrogations, and the use of their coerced confession to persecute political leadership.
Tamimi has been recognized by the European Union as a human rights defender and recently pronounced a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
During the course of Tamimi’s trial, new evidence has emerged, including first hand verification given by a military commander of disproportional use of force by the army in response to peaceful demonstrations, as well as police admittal of systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ rights during police interrogations, when a police interrogator who questioned both material witnesses against Tamimi, said on the stand that in his 25 years as an officer, he cannot recall a single time in which a Palestinian minor was allowed the presence of his parents during questioning.

Personal Background
Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children – Wa’ed (16), Ahed (12), Mohammed (10) and Salam (7).
As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he was never convicted of any offense. Tamimi spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.
In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El – an allegation of which he was cleared of entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days. As a result of the wounds caused by torture, Tamimi was partially paralyzed for several months after his release from the hospital.
At the opening of his previous trial, on June 5, 2011, Tamimi proudly owned up to organizing protests in the village. In a defiant speech before the court he said, “I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people.” Tamimi also challenged the legitimacy of the very system which trys him, saying that “Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws […] that are enacted by authorities which I haven’t elected and do not represent me.” (See here for Tamimi’s full statement).
As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village’s popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa’ed was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder.
Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi’s house was one of them, despite the fact that part of the house was built in 1965 and the rest in 2005.

(english.pnn.ps / 31.10.2012)

Euro-Mid submits report on Israel’s settlement activities to UN probe committee

 

GENEVA, (PIC)– The Euro-Mid observer for human rights said it handed a detailed report on Israel’s settlement expansion activities during the year 2012 in the occupied Palestinian territories to the UN fact-finding committee probing the violations in this regard.

In a press release, the Geneva-based rights group stated that its report showed that the first nine months of 2012 saw a rise in Israel’s settlement activities.

During the reporting year, Israel started to build 1,546 new housing units, mostly in randomly-built settlement outposts and approved plans to build more than 940 other units in the illegal settlement Gilo in east of Jerusalem, regional director of the Euro-Mid Amani Sinwar said.

The Euro-Mid expressed its deep concern about Israel’s disregard for international law and appeals for an immediate halt to its settlement expansion activities.

When the UN decided to activate its fact-finding committee on settlement activities, Israel defied the UN step and embarked on building a settlement outpost of 180 housing units for its military and police retirees on Palestinian lands near Sur Baher in east Jerusalem, it added.

The Euro-Mid hailed the UN for the formation of its probe committee, despite Israel’s refusal to cooperate with any committee investigating its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian lands.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 31.10.2012)

Genocide is Taking Place Right Now in Burma Saladin, Where Are You?

New song brings to light the slaughter of Rohingya people.

Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub
Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub (Saladin)

(TUCSON / BOSTON / SACRAMENTO) – The dissolution of the British Empire after the Second World War left a number of problems that still fester, several in the Muslim World. The most notorious, of course, is Palestine, a problem that now preoccupies its successor, the American Empire. There is the unresolved question of Kashmir that endangers the peace of the Indo-Pak subcontinent. There is also the British legacy of the Northwest Frontier in which the 19th-century British colonialists created an ad hoc border that divides the Pashto-speaking people in Afghanistan and Pakistan on both sides of it, a guaranteed recipe for instability and conflict, as we Americans should know by now.

And then there is another legacy, especially in Southeast Asia, not the result so much of imperial conquest and as of colonial enterprise.

During the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of workers were imported from India to work the plantations and fields of Malaysia and parts of Burma. Many were encouraged to settle there to make colonial Burma, for example, a fruitful model of the economic benefits of British imperialism.

Hence the presence of the Rohingyas in modern Burma, the descendants of the Bengali Muslims who were attracted to the empty spaces of Arakan and adjacent regions in colonial times. During WW II, when Burma was occupied by the Japanese, the Rohingya fought on the Allied side against the occupiers. A few years after the war ended, like India and Pakistan, Burma became an independent nation. The debt to the Rohingyas was quickly forgotten. Burma soon slid into totalitarian and military rule, a rule which is just ending now. With the coming of “democracy,” old scores are being settled and the Rohingyas are beginning to suffer horribly.

What will the world do? With the United Nations reduced to the status of an expensive debating society, while the “super powers” decide on priorities with their vetoes, one may expect the usual temporizing from that quarter. Look at Palestine! Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries on Earth, is not interested in adding its distressed cousins to their own burden. Other Muslim countries? There is a lot of talk about the Muslim Commonwealth, but not much action when national interests are involved.

The outlook is bleak. Saladin, where are you?

(Editor’s note: The song and video presentation below is possibly the first example of modern western music that celebrates and recognizes both the Rohingya people, and their struggle against the militant government of Burma which is decidedly pro-Rakhine Buddhist and anti-Rohingya Muslim. Even their citizenship is denied. Tim King asked Agron Belica if he could please put his musical talents to work by writing and producing a song about the Rohingyas, it took almost no time and the final version is now here)
Published on Oct 30, 2012 by ACE Kinolar

BURMA: Ethnic Cleansing & Genocide/CCTJP Movement
Journalists: Tim King, Siraj Davis, and Agron Belica
Aldin Entertainment Music Group
Music Produced by Sinma Co-Produced by Jamal Belica
Video Production by CCTJP Movement
Commissioned by Salem-News.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qlUhF9akmEk

(Saladin: Muslim sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, founder of the Ayyūbid dynasty, and the most famous of Muslim heroes. In wars against the Christian

(www.salem-news.com / 31.10.2012)

Netanyahu seeks France’s backing over Iran

 

Israeli PM and French leader agree on sanctions to halt Tehran’s nuclear programme but differ on Palestine statehood.

French President Francois Hollande said he wanted ‘concrete acts and gestures’ from Iran
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has won pledges from Francois Hollande, the French president, to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu visited Paris on Wednesday and praised France for the pressure it has put on Iran and called for “even tougher sanctions” than the ones currently in place.

But the prime minister had no sympathy for any possible Israeli military strike against Tehran.

Netanyahu has previously warned that his goverment would strike Iranian nuclear facilicities as sanctions have not stopped Tehran’s quest for developing an atomic bomb.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is intended for generating power and is not meant for military use.

Hollande said he wanted “concrete acts and gestures” from Iran to show it was not pursuing nuclear arms, adding that he would back “other sanctions” if Tehran failed to do so.

Netenyahu said: “The sanctions are taking a bite out of Iran’s economy … unfortunately they have not stopped the Iranian [nuclear] programme.”

He told reporters: “Given the history of the Jewish people, I would not sit by and write off a threat by those who say they are going to annihilate us.”

Netanyahu said Arab nations would also be “relieved” if Iran were prevented from obtaining nuclear arms.

Hollande is opposed to Netanyahu’s argument for a possible military action and has supported a push for tougher EU sanctions on Iran while wanting to keep the door open for dialogue.

Netanyahu and Hollande also talked about the possibility of resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in Paris.

The Israeli premier said he was ready to hold talks at the French presidential palace: “President Hollande can invite [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to the Elysee [presidential palace] … I’m here, I’m ready.”

France has long opposed Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem – a major obstacle in the Israel-Palestine peace process – and supports the creation of a Palestinian state.

It also voted for Palestinian membership in UNESCO, the Paris-based United Nations cultural and educational body, a year ago.

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, is now pushing ahead his plan to seek upgraded observer status at the United Nations in New York next month, despite US and Israeli threats of financial or diplomatic retaliation.

Netanyahu has criticised the Palestinian bid for international recognition as a state while efforts to revive the Israel-Palestine peace process continue.

(www.aljazeera.com / 31.10.2012)

Israeli ex-leaders discussing campaign to defeat Netanyahu

Former Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, former prime minister Ahmad Qurei, President Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert meet in Jerusalem in Dec. 2007.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Former leaders Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni announced on Wednesday they were discussing a partnership that could shake up Israeli politics and lead to a joint campaign to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a January election.

Olmert, a centrist, was forced to quit as prime minister in 2008 over corruption charges of which he was largely acquitted.

Were he to make a comeback, he is seen as possibly the most likely candidate to beat Netanyahu, the right-wing Likud party leader, who polls now predict will win re-election.

Livni, who quit the centrist Kadima party in March after a failed leadership contest and headed Middle East peace talks which deadlocked months after Netanyahu took office, is also seen as a strong potential contender for Israel’s Jan. 22 race.

A statement from an aide to Olmert said he and Livni had agreed “action must be taken to change the leadership”, citing what it called “Israel’s deteriorated status” under Netanyahu. It alluded to tensions with the United States about how to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and diplomatic paralysis with the Palestinians.

Both agreed to continue meeting and a confidant who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed Israeli media reports that they were weighing the prospect of a joint election run. A Livni aide also confirmed these talks took place.

It was not clear whether the pair would join one of Israel’s center or left-leaning parties, or form their own.

Olmert and Livni once headed the centrist Kadima party, whose popularity has nosedived under their successor, former general Shaul Mofaz.

Founded by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, the party is now predicted to win only a handful of seats in parliament in the coming election, latest surveys show.

But Olmert and Livni may seek to tap into dissatisfaction among moderates in Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party over Netanyahu’s union this week with far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, now running jointly in the coming election.

Despite the critics, the latest polls show Netanyahu winning as many as 42 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament which would assure him of heading the country’s next coalition government.

(www.maannews.net / 31.10.2012)

Onafhankelijk VN-rapporteur Richard Falk roept op tot een boycot, desinvestering en sancties tegen o.a. Dexia NV

 

INTAL.BE – PERSBERICHT – 26 oktober 2012 – In juli 2012 startte onafhankelijk VN-rapporteur Richard Falk een onderzoek naar de betrokkenheid van bedrijven bij de schending van mensenrechten in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden sinds 1967. Dexia NV is één van de geviseerde bedrijven.

PERSBERICHT

Onafhankelijk VN-rapporteur Richard Falk roept civiele organisaties op tot een boycot, desinvestering en sancties van bedrijven betrokken bij de bezetting van Palestina, waaronder Dexia NV

In juli 2012 startte onafhankelijk VN-rapporteur Richard Falk een onderzoek naar de betrokkenheid van bedrijven bij de schending van mensenrechten in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden sinds 1967. Dexia NV is één van de geviseerde bedrijven.

Op 25 oktober 2012 stelde Falk zijn rapport voor aan de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties. In het rapport verklaart de VN-rapporteur onder meer:

“My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards […]”

Dexia NV neemt een weinig benijdenswaardige plaats in op de lijst van bedrijven die Falk tot deze conclusie hebben gebracht. Via haar filiaal in Israël geeft Dexia NV immers leningen voor de uitbouw van de illegale kolonies in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden.

Dexia volhardt in de boosheid

In de Algemene Vergadering van de VN stelde Richard Falk dat Dexia NV inspanningen doet om zijn beleid in regel te brengen met de regels van UN Global Compact (1). Het platform “Israël koloniseert – Dexia financiert” stelt echter dat die inspanningen al dateren van eind 2008, zonder enige wijziging in het beleid van Dexia NV. Daarnaast stelt het platform vast dat Dexia NV het voortgangsrapport voor de UN Global Compact 6 maand na het overschrijden van de deadline nog niet heeft ingediend (2).

Nieuwe bezems vegen schoon?

Na een jarenlange campagne van 83 Belgische organisaties (3), een veroordeling van het Russell Tribunal on Palestine (4), is het vandaag de speciale VN-rapporteur die het beleid van het Belgische Dexia NV in de bezette Palestijnse gebieden aanklaagt (5).

Het platform “Israël koloniseert – Dexia financiert” roept Karel De Boeck, nieuwe voorzitter van het Directiecomité van Dexia NV en Dexia Crédit Local, op om de dialoog aan te gaan met als doelstelling Dexia’s betrokkenheid bij de uitbouw van de bezetting van Palestina stop te zetten.

Contact:
Mario Franssen
woordvoerder | porte-parole
‘Israël koloniseert – Dexia financiert’ | ‘Palestine occupée – Dexia impliquée’
mario.franssen@intal.be | +32 2 209 23 56 | +32 498 54 16 42

(1) http://www.unglobalcompact.org/AboutTheGC/TheTenPrinciples/index.html
(2) http://www.unglobalcompact.org/participant/2887-dexia-group
(3) http://www.intal.be/nl/article/chronologie-van-de-campagne-israel-koloniseert-dexia-financiert
(4) http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/1103/concluding-statement-london-session
(5) http://www.intal.be/files/20121025_Richard_Falk_-_A-67-379_SR_oPt_report_-_English.pdf

(mediawerkgroepsyrie.wordpress.com / 31.10.2012)

European NGOs to EU: Rhetoric is not enough, ban settlement products now

Tomer settlement

Palestinians harvesting dates in the Jordan Valley settlement of Tomer

The EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian. The EU issues statements about the illegality of the settlements, criticizes and condemns them, but has failed to take any meaningful action leveraging economic or political pressure. This undermines the EU’s strategic interests and values, facilitates the growth of the illegal settlements and threatens the prospect for a two state settlement.

These are some of the findings in a report signed by 22 European NGOs titled “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements”(pdf):

The contradictions of Europe’s trade with Israeli settlements
The most recent estimate of the value of EU imports from settlements provided by the Israeli government to the World Bank is $300m (€230m) a year; this is approximately fifteen times the annual value of EU imports from Palestinians. With more than four million Palestinians and over 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied territory this means the EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian.

The report is directed only at illegal settlements outside Israel’s recognized borders. It blames “Israel’s incessant settlement policy” for prevented meaningful peace negotiations and lists 12 steps suggesting how to oppose the settlements including banning “imposts of settlement products” and “preventing financial transactions to settlements” in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.

Alternative Information Center (AIC):

“Europe says settlements are illegal under international law and yet continues to trade with them. Consumers are unwittingly contributing to the injustice by buying products that are inaccurately labelled as coming from Israel when in fact they are from settlements in the West Bank,” said William Bell, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Christian Aid UK and Ireland.

………

Among the settlement goods that are on sale in Europe are dates, grapes, citrus fruits, herbs, wines, cosmetics from Ahava, some of the carbonation devices from SodaStream and some of the plastic garden furniture produced by Keter.

“Goods from West Bank settlements are produced on the back of house demolitions, land confiscations, and military occupation. Governments need to finally move beyond rhetorical condemnations of settlements and at the very minimum ensure consumers can make informed decisions about these products in shops. This is nothing but abiding by European and international law,” said Souhayr Belhassen President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Haaretz Amira Hass:

The report cites figures from the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy showing that the Palestinian economy loses some $7 billion annually due to Israeli control over the West Bank and the restrictions it imposes. The report cites International Monetary Fund figures according to which exports constitute less than 15 percent of the Palestinian GDP, down from 50 percent in the 1980s. The report concludes that this decline negates any benefits of the EU’s preferential trade agreement with the Palestinians.”

The report states that Israel provides the settlements and its inhabitants with significant financial benefits and access to lands and water, which are the basis for the economic success of products from the settlements, particularly agricultural products. But at the same time, the authors write, Israel hinders Palestinian economic activity by limiting movement and access to lands in Area C, under its full military and civilian control, and limiting access to water, grazing and farm lands, most of which is located in Area C.

Quoting an estimate cited by the World Bank from an article written by Israeli and Palestinian economists, the report states that if Israeli restrictions on Palestinian agricultural produce in the Jordan Valley were lifted to allow only a 3.5 percent increase in cultivated land, the Palestinian economy “could gain $1 billion a year – comparable to the entire annual foreign aid budget to the Palestinian Authority.”

About 66 percent of Israel’s fruits and vegetables are exported to Europe. The report’s writers estimate that “the figure can be expected to be similar for fresh produce from settlements.” For example, the report notes that about 70 percent of grapes grown in the Jordan Valley are destined for export, and constitute half of Israeli grape exports. More than 80 percent of dates grown in the Jordan Valley are exported. In 2011, the report notes, Israel exported 25,000 tons of dates, 12,000 tons of which were grown in the Jordan Valley. In contrast, the Palestinians produced about 2,500 tons of dates in Israeli-occupied areas. Only 300 tons were exported, mainly to the Gulf states.

The Guardian Harriet Sherwood:

The report draws attention to a “discriminatory two-tier system” in the West Bank, under which settler businesses have the advantage of free movement unhindered by checkpoints and the security barrier, and greater access to land and water resources. In the Jordan Valley, where huge Israeli agricultural businesses are geared towards export, the settler population of fewer than 10,000 uses a quarter of the total amount of water consumed by 2.5m Palestinians living in the West Bank, it says.

It points out that the EU is the Palestinian Authority’s biggest donor, allocating $677m last year. It cites a World Bank estimate that if Israel lifted its restrictions on Palestinian agriculture, the Palestinian economy would no longer need to depend on foreign aid.

“The EU spends hundreds of millions of euros in aid each year to support Palestinian state building but then undermines this assistance by trading with illegal settlements, thus contributing to their viability and expansion,” said Phyllis Starkey, a trustee for Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Settlement growth has accelerated in the past two years, since the end of the temporary construction freeze brokered by the US. According to the report, “the settler population is growing at a much faster rate (an average of 5.3% annually over the last decade) than the Israeli population as a whole (1.8%)”.

It also urges the EU to act now “without delay” and lead the way.

(mondoweiss.net / 31.10.2012)

Medina: Saudis take a bulldozer to Islam’s history

Authorities are building a mosque so big it will hold 1.6m people – but are demolishing irreplaceable monuments to do it

Three of the world’s oldest mosques are about to be destroyed as Saudi Arabia embarks on a multi-billion-pound expansion of Islam’s second holiest site. Work on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, where the Prophet Mohamed is buried, will start once the annual Hajj pilgrimage ends next month. When complete, the development will turn the mosque into the world’s largest building, with the capacity for 1.6 million worshippers.

But concerns have been raised that the development will see key historic sites bulldozed. Anger is already growing at the kingdom’s apparent disdain for preserving the historical and archaeological heritage of the country’s holiest city, Mecca.  Most of the expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi will take place to the west of the existing mosque, which holds the tombs of Islam’s founder and two of his closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar.

Just outside the western walls of the current compound are mosques dedicated to Abu Bakr and Umar, as well as the Masjid Ghamama, built to mark the spot where the Prophet is thought to have given his first prayers for the Eid festival. The Saudis have announced no plans to preserve or move the three mosques, which have existed since the seventh century and are covered by Ottoman-era structures, or to commission archaeological digs before they are pulled down, something that has caused considerable concern among the few academics who are willing to speak out in the deeply authoritarian kingdom.

“No one denies that Medina is in need of expansion, but it’s the way the authorities are going about it which is so worrying,” says Dr Irfan al-Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. “There are ways they could expand which would either avoid or preserve the ancient Islamic sites but instead they want to knock it all down.” Dr Alawi has spent much of the past 10 years trying to highlight the destruction of early Islamic sites.

With cheap air travel and booming middle classes in populous Muslim countries within the developing world, both Mecca and Medina are struggling to cope with the 12 million pilgrims who visit each year – a number expected to grow to 17 million by 2025. The Saudi monarchy views itself as the sole authority to decide what should happen to the cradle of Islam. Although it has earmarked billions for an enormous expansion of both Mecca and Medina, it also sees the holy cities as lucrative for a country almost entirely reliant on its finite oil wealth.

Heritage campaigners and many locals have looked on aghast as the historic sections of Mecca and Medina have been bulldozed to make way for gleaming shopping malls, luxury hotels and enormous skyscrapers. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of the 1,000-year-old buildings in the two cities have been destroyed in the past 20 years.

In Mecca, the Masjid al-Haram, the holiest site in Islam and a place where all Muslims are supposed to be equal, is now overshadowed by the Jabal Omar complex, a development of skyscraper apartments, hotels and an enormous clock tower. To build it, the Saudi authorities destroyed the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress and the hill it stood on. Other historic sites lost include the Prophet’s birthplace – now a library – and the house of his first wife, Khadijah, which was replaced with a public toilet block.

Neither the Saudi Embassy in London nor the Ministry for Foreign Affairs responded to requests for comment when The Independent contacted them this week. But the government has previously defended its expansion plans for the two holy cities as necessary. It insists it has also built large numbers of budget hotels for poorer pilgrims, though critics point out these are routinely placed many miles away from the holy sites.

Until recently, redevelopment in Medina has pressed ahead at a slightly less frenetic pace than in Mecca, although a number of early Islamic sites have still been lost. Of the seven ancient mosques built to commemorate the Battle of the Trench – a key moment in the development of Islam – only two remain. Ten years ago, a mosque which belonged to the Prophet’s grandson was dynamited. Pictures of the demolition that were secretly taken and smuggled out of the kingdom showed the religious police celebrating as the building collapsed.

The disregard for Islam’s early history is partly explained by the regime’s adoption of Wahabism, an austere and uncompromising interpretation of Islam that is vehemently opposed to anything which might encourage Muslims towards idol worship.

In most of the Muslim world, shrines have been built. Visits to graves are also commonplace. But Wahabism views such practices with disdain. The religious police go to enormous lengths to discourage people from praying at or visiting places closely connected to the time of the Prophet while powerful clerics work behind the scenes to promote the destruction of historic sites.

Dr Alawi fears that the redevelopment of the Masjid an-Nabawi is part of a wider drive to shift focus away from the place where Mohamed is buried. The spot that marks the Prophet’s tomb is covered by a famous green dome and forms the centrepiece of the current mosque. But under the new plans, it will become the east wing of a building eight times its current size with a new pulpit. There are also plans to demolish the prayer niche at the centre of mosque. The area forms part of the Riyadh al-Jannah (Garden of Paradise), a section of the mosque that the Prophet decreed especially holy..

“Their excuse is they want to make more room and create 20 spaces in a mosque that will eventually hold 1.6 million,” says Dr Alawi. “It makes no sense. What they really want is to move the focus away from where the Prophet is buried.”

A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs – and endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al Sheikh – called for the dome to be demolished and the graves of Mohamed, Abu Bakr and Umar to be flattened. Sheikh Ibn al-Uthaymeen, one of the 20th century’s most prolific Wahabi scholars, made similar demands.

“Muslim silence over the destruction of Mecca and Medina is both disastrous and hypocritical,” says Dr Alawi. “The recent movie about the Prophet Mohamed caused worldwide protests… and yet the destruction of the Prophet’s birthplace, where he prayed and founded Islam has been allowed to continue without any criticism.”

Mecca and Medina in numbers

12m The number of people who visit Mecca and Medina every year

3.4m The number of Muslims expected to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) this year

60,000 The current capacity of the Masjid an-Nabawi mosque

1.6m The projected capacity of the mosque after expansion

(www.independent.co.uk / 31.10.2012)

29 oktober: het bloedbad van Kafr Qasim

Op 29 oktober 1956 werden 48 Palestijnen in koelen bloede doodgeschoten door de Israëlische grenspolitie. Het gebeurde in het dorpje Karf Qasim, dat nog net binnen de zogenoemde Groene Lijn lag en dus op Israëlisch grondgebied. De Groene Lijn is de wapenstilstandslijn van na de burgeroorlog van 1948-49, toen Israël de nodige gebieden had ingelijfd.

Deze gruwelijke daad heeft een symbolisch karakter gekregen om verschillende redenen. Ten eerste gebeurde het binnen de grenzen van Israël, ten tweede was de aanleiding absurd en ten derde was de strafmaat een aanfluiting, of liever gezegd een grove belediging. Adding insult to injury, zoals het Engelse gezegde luidt.

  1. Het was de grootste slachting onder Palestijnse inwoners van Israël. Het bloedbad is nooit onderdeel geworden van de geschiedenisles. Alleen de toenmalige minister van Onderwijs, Yossi Sarid, deed een poging, maar die stuitte op veel verzet.
  2. Er was een avondklok ingesteld door het militaire bewind, maar dit was zo plotseling gebeurd dat de mensen die op het land aan het werk waren er geen weet van hadden. Bij thuiskomst werden ze vervolgens zonder pardon geëxecuteerd.
  3. Officieel werd er schande geroepen van deze daad, maar de straffen werden al snel teruggebracht van 15 naar 5 jaar, waarvan er maar een klein deel werd uitgezeten. De grootste belediging voor de nabestaanden was wel dat kolonel Isachar Shadmi, die het bevel had gegeven, er met een symbolische boete van 1 agora (de kleinste munt in Israël) vanaf kwam. Dus zeg maar 1 cent boete voor het vermoorden van 48 mensen, waaronder vrouwen en kinderen. Adding insult to injury.
In 2007 heeft president Peres weliswaar in vage termen zijn excuses aangeboden, maar tijdens het bloedbad was diezelfde Peres onderminister van Veiligheid en het is onwaarschijnlijk dat hij niet op de hoogte was. Het feitelijke schieten gebeurde weliswaar door de grenspolitie onder commando van majoor Shmuel Malinki, maar de orders kwamen van kolonel Shadmi, en die was van de IDF (het Israëlische leger).

De bedoeling van het bloedbad was duidelijk. Majoor Shumel Malinki had duidelijke instructies. Er moest zoveel mogelijk terreur gezaaid worden, opdat de nog aanwezige Palestijnen zouden vertrekken. Dit was dus al bijna 10 jaar na de onafhankelijkheid van Israël. En nog steeds zijn er verdedigers van het onverdedigbare die blijven beweren dat de Palestijnen uit eigen vrije wil zijn vertrokken, ofwel daartoe werden aangespoord door Arabische  leiders. Het ging hier niet om een conflictgebied, het was een rustig dorp van boeren die hun land bewerkten. Susan Nathan, in ‘De andere kant van Israël’, schrijft “Verschillende mensen uit Tamra vertelden me dat er eens per generatie een bloedbad wordt aangericht onder de Arabische burgers van het land, alsof men de Arabieren steeds weer wil herinneren aan hun onzekere status als burger.”

De waarde die gebeurtenissen in het geheugen van een volk hebben is niet automatisch gekoppeld aan aantallen doden. Het gaat meestal om de manier waarop iets tot stand komt. Zoals het vermoorden van de mensen in Deir Yassin, of een enkeling als Rachel Corrie. Wat ze gemeen hebben is het kafkaeske systeem van macht, waardoor de onderdrukker in z’n arrogantie niet eens meer de moeite neemt zijn daad te rechtvaardigen op algemeen aanvaardbare gronden.

Veel mensen die toen leefden zijn nog steeds in leven. Sindsdien zijn er nog vele gruwelijkheden gevolgd, maar het is menselijkerwijs niet mogelijk alles te blijven gedenken. Dan wordt je gek. Maar enkele gebeurtenissen die symbool staan voor zoveel onrecht moet je blijven herdenken. Anders is met het verleden ook de hoop op een betere toekomst verdwenen.

(www.alexandrina.nl / 31.10.2012)

Olijven plukken als geweldloos verzet

Maar ik zal zijn als een groene olijfboom in Gods huis; ik vertrouw op Gods goedertierenheid eeuwiglijk en altoos.
Psalm 52:8

Oktober is de maand van de olijvenoogst voor de Palestijnen. Op de Westelijke Jordaanoever is het echter niet makkelijk, vanwege de beperkingen die worden opgelegd door Israël, het idiote vergunningensysteem, de beperkte bewegingsvrijheid, en natuurlijk het voortdurende getreiter – of erger – van de kolonisten. Volgens een rapport van de Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem heeft Israël sinds 1967 al 1,2 miljoen olijfbomen vernietigd. Sinds 2007 is het geweld van de kolonisten met meer dan 300% gestegen. En het zijn maar al te vaak de Palestijnen die daarvoor in de gevangenis belanden, met name tijdens de oogst.

De familie van Khalid Daraghmeh maakt het regelmatig mee. De kolonisten bedreigen de familie, slaan de kinderen en vertellen de politie vervolgens dat zij werden aangevallen. Ze hebben al vier honden van Khalid gedood, 350 zaailingen vernietigd en het irrigatiesysteem kapot gemaakt. Een keer doken de kolonisten naakt in een bron voor drinkwater.

Sinds het begin van de maand zijn de aanvallen van de kolonisten weer toegenomen. Alleen al dit jaar zijn er zo’n 7500 olijfbomen vernietigd. De olijfolie maakt 14% uit van het agrarische inkomen uit de Palestijnse gebieden, waarmee ongeveer 80.000 families in hun onderhoud kunnen voorzien. Daarnaast is het zo er overal vergunningen voor nodig zijn, waardoor veel Palestijnen het grootste deel van het jaar niet op hun land kunnen, of de vergunning komt te laat voor de oogst. Volgens de Verenigde Naties werd in 2011 42% van de aanvragen die voor het oogstseizoen werden gedaan, afgewezen.

Dit samenspel tussen het leger en de kolonisten om het leven van de Palestijnen zo ondraaglijk te maken als maar mogelijk is, heeft ook weer geleid tot een nieuwe manier van verzet. Er komen regelmatig buitenlanders mee om te oogsten, in de hoop daarmee de kolonisten op een afstand te houden en de willekeur van het leger binnen de perken te houden. Maar de Brit Matt Reed verteld dat tijdens zijn aanwezigheid er toch nog drie aanvallen van kolonisten waren geweest op de familie Daraghmeh.

De bedoeling van de kolonisten is het land te kopen, maar omdat de meeste Palestijnen liever zouden sterven dan hun land afstaan, worden deze onfrisse tactieken gebruikt in de hoop dat ze wel een keer door de knieën zullen gaan. Zo wordt iets wat normaliter een feest van vruchtbaarheid zou moeten zijn, een daad van geweldloos verzet. Hoe triest het ook is dat je eigen olijven plukken een daad van verzet is.

Zoals vermeld zijn hier ook rapporten over, zijn de Verenigde Naties op de hoogte en zijn er talloze activisten en journalisten die het aansnijden. Het verstoren van de olijvenoogst is wel een van de meest ongure trekjes van Israël. Het is symbolisch, omdat veel olijfbomen hier al stonden voordat de zionisten hun snode plannen ten uitvoer brachten. Het gaat Israël om de wortels van de Palestijnse ziel, niet om de olie of de vruchten.

(www.alexandrina.nl / 31.10.2012)