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Dagelijks archief 31 juli 2013

What does Islam teach about slavery?

Quran and Slavery 01

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

What does Islam say about slavery?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Slavery was an economic and political institution that existed before Islam. Slaves were considered property and were bought, sold, and captured as merchandise. Islam intended to phase out slavery with several methods: by acknowledging the humanity of slaves, by elevating their status in society, by bestowing on them rights, and by encouraging several means to achieve their freedom.

In the Quran, Pharaoh is the prime example of a sinful tyrant. One of his greatest sins was enslaving and subjugating the Israelites.

Allah said:

وَتِلْكَ نِعْمَةٌ تَمُنُّهَا عَلَيَّ أَنْ عَبَّدتَّ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ

Moses said: Is this a favor of which you remind me, that you have enslaved the Children of Israel?

Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:22

And Allah said:

قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِي نِسَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَاهِرُونَ

Pharaoh said: We will slaughter their sons and keep their women alive. Indeed, we are subjugators over them.

And Allah said:

Surah Al-A’raf 7:127

فَقَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ لِبَشَرَيْنِ مِثْلِنَا وَقَوْمُهُمَا لَنَا عَابِدُونَ

They said: Should we believe two men like ourselves while their people are enslaved for us?

Surah Al-Muminun 23:47

In another verse, Allah criticizes the later generations of Israelites who were guilty of aggression and enslaving people.

Allah said:

ثُمَّ أَنتُمْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ تَقْتُلُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتُخْرِجُونَ فَرِيقًا مِّنكُم مِّن دِيَارِهِمْ تَظَاهَرُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِالْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ وَإِن يَأْتُوكُمْ أُسَارَىٰ تُفَادُوهُمْ وَهُوَ مُحَرَّمٌ عَلَيْكُمْ إِخْرَاجُهُمْ ۚ أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ

Then you are those killing one another and evicting a party of your people from their homes, cooperating against them in sin and aggression. If they come to you as captives, you ransom them although their eviction was forbidden to you. So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part?

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:85

The Prophet warned that Allah will punish those who enslaved free people on the Day of Resurrection.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَرَجُلٌ بَاعَ حُرًّا فَأَكَلَ ثَمَنَهُ

Allah will oppose a man who sells a free person and consumes the price.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 2114, Grade: Sahih

Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

مذ كم تعبدتم الناس وقد ولدتهم أمهاتهم أحراراً

Since when did you enslave the people though they were born from their mothers in freedom?

Source: Futuh Masr 290

People who were already slaves or were prisoners of war were elevated to the status of servants who enjoyed rights and kind treatment, as if they were part of the master’s family.

Ma’rur ibn Suwaid reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِخْوَانُكُمْ وَخَوَلُكُمْ جَعَلَهُمْ اللَّهُ تَحْتَ أَيْدِيكُمْ فَمَنْ كَانَ أَخُوهُ تَحْتَ يَدَيْهِ فَلْيُطْعِمْهُ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ وَلْيُلْبِسْهُ مِمَّا يَلْبَسُ وَلَا تُكَلِّفُوهُمْ مَا يَغْلِبُهُمْ فَإِنْ كَلَّفْتُمُوهُمْ فَأَعِينُوهُمْ عَلَيْهِ

Your slaves are your brothers. Allah has placed them in your hand, and he who has his brother under him should feed him with the same food he eats and clothe him with the same clothes he wears, and do not burden him beyond his capacity, and if you burden him then help him.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1661, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا يَقُولَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ عَبْدِي فَكُلُّكُمْ عَبِيدُ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ فَتَايَ وَلَا يَقُلْ الْعَبْدُ رَبِّي وَلَكِنْ لِيَقُلْ سَيِّدِي

None of you should say: My slave, for all of you are the slaves of Allah. Rather, you should say: My boy. The servant should not say: My lord, but rather he should say: My chief.

Source: Sahih Muslim 2249, Grade: Sahih

Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, enjoined good treatment of slaves and he would say:

أَطْعِمُوهُمْ مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ وَأَلْبِسُوهُمْ مِنْ لَبُوسِكُمْ وَلاَ تُعَذِّبُوا خَلْقَ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ

Feed them from the same food you eat and clothe them from the same clothes you wear, and do not torture the creation of Allah the Exalted.

Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 188, Grade: Sahih

Anas ibn Malik reported:

خَدَمْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَشْرَ سِنِينَ فَمَا قَالَ لِي أُفٍّ وَلَا لِمَ صَنَعْتَ وَلَا أَلَّا صَنَعْتَ

I served the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, for ten years. By Allah, he never even said a mild rebuke to me and he never said harshly for anything: Why did you do that? Why did you not do that?

Source: Sahih Bukhari 5691, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Anas ibn Malik reported:

 إِنْ كَانَتْ الْأَمَةُ مِنْ إِمَاءِ أَهْلِ الْمَدِينَةِ لَتَأْخُذُ بِيَدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَتَنْطَلِقُ بِهِ حَيْثُ شَاءَتْ

Any of the young servant girls among the people of Medina would take the hand of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and lead him wherever she wished.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 5724, Grade: Sahih

Islam encouraged many means through which slaves could achieve their freedom.

Allah said:

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ

What will make you know what is the difficult path to Paradise? It is the freeing of a slave.

Surah Al-Balad 90:12-13

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ أَعْتَقَ رَقَبَةً مُسْلِمَةً أَعْتَقَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ عُضْوٍ مِنْهُ عُضْوًا مِنْ النَّارِ حَتَّى فَرْجَهُ بِفَرْجِهِ

Whoever frees a Muslim slave, then Allah will free every limb of his body from the Hellfire, even his private parts.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 6337, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet encouraged freeing, educating, and marrying female slaves as a means to raise their status in society.

Burda reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

وَرَجُلٌ كَانَتْ عِنْدَهُ أَمَةٌ فَأَدَّبَهَا فَأَحْسَنَ تَأْدِيبَهَا وَعَلَّمَهَا فَأَحْسَنَ تَعْلِيمَهَا ثُمَّ أَعْتَقَهَا فَتَزَوَّجَهَا فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ

A man who owns a servant girl and he mentors her, teaches her beautiful manners, and educates her in the best way, then he emancipates her and marries her will have a double reward.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 97, Grade: Sahih

Anas ibn Malik reported:

أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَعْتَقَ صَفِيَّةَ وَجَعَلَ عِتْقَهَا صَدَاقَهَا

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, set free Safiya and made her emancipation as her dowry.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 4798, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

If a slave requested terms of emancipation from his master, then his master was required to set terms for which he would earn his freedom.

Allah said:

وَالَّذِينَ يَبْتَغُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ فَكَاتِبُوهُمْ إِنْ عَلِمْتُمْ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا ۖ وَآتُوهُم مِّن مَّالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي آتَاكُمْ

Those who seek a contract for emancipation from among those whom your right hands possess, then make a contract with them if you know there is within them goodness and give them from the wealth of Allah which He has given you.

Surah An-Nur 24:33

The Prophet never abused his servants and he never struck anything with his hand, not even an animal, unless he was defending himself in battle.

Aisha reported:

مَا ضَرَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ خَادِمًا لَهُ وَلَا امْرَأَةً وَلَا ضَرَبَ بِيَدِهِ شَيْئًا

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, did not strike a servant nor a woman, and he never struck anything with his hand.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1984, Grade: Sahih

If a servant was abused or mistreated, the expiation for master’s sin was to emancipate them.

Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing be upon him, said:

مَنْ ضَرَبَ غُلَامًا لَهُ حَدًّا لَمْ يَأْتِهِ أَوْ لَطَمَهُ فَإِنَّ كَفَّارَتَهُ أَنْ يُعْتِقَهُ

Whoever strikes his slave without limit or slaps him, then verily, the expiation for the sin is to emancipate him.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1657, Grade: Sahih

Abu Mas’ud Al-Ansari reported: I was beating a boy of mine when I heard a voice from behind me:

اعْلَمْ أَبَا مَسْعُودٍ لَلَّهُ أَقْدَرُ عَلَيْكَ مِنْكَ عَلَيْهِ

Know, O Abu Mas’ud, that Allah has more power over you than you have over him.

I turned around and it was the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have freed him for the sake of Allah.” The Prophet said:

أَمَا لَوْ لَمْ تَفْعَلْ لَلَفَحَتْكَ النَّارُ

If you had not done so, you would have been burnt in the Hellfire.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1659, Grade: Sahih

Suwaid ibn Muqarrin reported: He had a servant girl and someone slapped her, so he said to him:

أَمَا عَلِمْتَ أَنَّ الصُّورَةَ مُحَرَّمَةٌ فَقَالَ لَقَدْ رَأَيْتُنِي وَإِنِّي لَسَابِعُ إِخْوَةٍ لِي مَعَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَمَا لَنَا خَادِمٌ غَيْرُ وَاحِدٍ فَعَمَدَ أَحَدُنَا فَلَطَمَهُ فَأَمَرَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنْ نُعْتِقَهُ

Did you not know that it is forbidden to strike the face? I was the seventh of my brothers during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing be upon him, and we had only one servant. One of us became enraged and slapped him, so the Messenger of Allah commanded us to set him free.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1658, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet warned his companions that Allah would retaliate on behalf of the abused slaves on the Day of Resurrection and those who abused their slaves would not enter Paradise.

Abu Bakr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ سَيِّئُ الْمَلَكَةِ

He will not enter Paradise who is evil to his slaves.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 32, Grade: Hasan

Ammar ibn Yasir, may Allah be pleased with him, said:

لاَ يَضْرِبُ أَحَدٌ عَبْدًا لَهُ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ لَهُ إِلاَّ أُقِيدَ مِنْهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ‏

None of you strikes his slave unjustly except that the slave will be granted retaliation on the Day of Resurrection.

Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 181, Grade: Sahih

Even if the master merely curses his slaves, the expiation for the master’s sin is to free them.

Aisha reported: Abu Bakr once cursed some of his slaves, so the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

يَا أَبَا بَكْرٍ اللَّعَّانِينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ‏؟‏ كَلاَّ وَرَبِّ الْكَعْبَةِ

O Abu Bakr! Those who curse or those who are true? No, by the Lord of the Ka’bah!

The Prophet said it two or three times. One that very day, Abu Bakr freed some of his slaves. Then the Prophet came to him and he said:

لا أَعُودُ

Do not do it again.

Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 319, Grade: Sahih

The Prophet would also free the slaves of the people who were at war with him.

Ibn Abbas reported:

لَمَّا حَاصَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَهْلَ الطَّائِفِ أَعْتَقَ مِنْ رَقِيقِهِمْ

When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, besieged the people of At-Ta’if, he freed their slaves who came out to him.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 3257, Grade: Sahih

The only way Muslims could acquire slaves was if they captured enemies as prisoners of war, but this was not considered a virtue. Even then the Quran encourages the Muslims to give them preference over themselves.

Allah said:

وَيُطْعِمُونَ الطَّعَامَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ مِسْكِينًا وَيَتِيمًا وَأَسِيرًا إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا

They give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive, saying to themselves: We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude.

Surah Al-Insan 76:8-9

Likewise, the Prophet encouraged the Muslims to free their prisoners of war.

Abu Musa Al-Ashari reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

أَطْعِمُوا الْجَائِعَ وَعُودُوا الْمَرِيضَ وَفُكُّوا الْعَانِيَ

Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and set the captives free.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 5058, Grade: Sahih

The good treatment of servants is so important in Islam that one of the Prophet’s final statements was a warning to the Muslims to be kind to their slaves and servants.

Umm Salamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was saying during the illness which took his life:

الصَّلَاةَ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ

The prayer, and those whom your right hands possess.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1625, Grade: Sahih

From all of this, it is clear that Islam intended to put in place mechanisms and values that would lead to the eventual abolition of slavery. In the present day, the vast majority of Muslim countries have signed the Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery which states:

The High Contracting Parties undertake, each in respect of the territories placed under its sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection, suzerainty or tutelage, so far as they have not already taken the necessary steps: To prevent and suppress the slave trade, and to bring about, progressively and as soon as possible, the complete abolition of slavery in all its forms.

Source: ohchr.org

This development was welcomed by the Muslims because of what Islam teaches about slavery. The overwhelming acceptance and celebration of the end of the slave trade is a sign that this is what Allah has intended, because of the statement of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him:

فَمَا رَأَى الْمُسْلِمُونَ حَسَنًا فَهُوَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ حَسَنٌ

Whatever the Muslims view as good is good in the sight of Allah.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 3589, Grade: Hasan

In conclusion, Islam encourages freedom and the good treatment of servants, and it opposes the slave trade, abuse, and racism.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Rizqa warns of new Palestinian concessions

images_News_2013_07_30_rizka_300_0[1]

GAZA, (PIC)– Dr. Yousef Rizqa, political adviser to Gaza prime minister, warned of offering new Palestinian concessions after the PA decision to resume talks with the Israeli authorities.

He renewed the Gaza government rejection to the PA’s unilateral decision to offer serious concessions to the Israelis amid Palestinian people and factions’ refusal to this step.

There is no political justification for resumption of talks in light of an Israeli extremist rightwing government, an American biased policy, in addition to the unstable current Arab situation due to the systematic schemes against the Arab spring revolutions, he added.

He described the Israeli decision to release 204 Palestinian prisoners who were detained before Oslo accords as a bribery that would be canceled once the negotiations fail.

He pointed out that Netanyahu will supervise the prisoners’ deal that will not include prisoners affiliated to Hamas or Jihad movements or the prisoners from 1948-occupied territories.

He stressed that resistance is the only way to release the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, citing Wafa al-Ahrar deal in which 1000 Palestinian prisoners, chosen by Hamas movement, were released in exchange for the Israeli Corporal Gilat Shalit.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

133 Palestinian NGOs reject PA’s decision to restart talks with Israel

 

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian NGO network said it is deeply concerned about the Palestinian authority’s decision to return to the negotiation table with the Israeli occupation.

In a press release on Monday, the network, which include 133 member organizations, stated that the gravity of such a decision that it was taken without any commitment to the minimum requirements, most importantly, the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and the termination of settlement activities.

The network criticized the PA for its decision to backtrack on its intention to join international organizations including the international criminal court in exchange for its talks with the Israeli regime.

It also expressed its fears that the PA-Israeli negotiations would undermine the boycott campaign against Israel, which started to bear fruit following the decision of the European union to ban dealing with settlements and Israeli companies operating within 1967 borders.

“It is clear to all that the occupation state is persistent in building settlement units, expanding settlements, annexing lands and Judaizing Jerusalem despite its approval to resume the negotiations,” the NGOs underscored.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Syrian Missiles Were Moved Before Israeli Strike, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — American intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made antiship cruise missiles that were its target, American officials said on Wednesday, and that further Israeli strikes are likely.

Israel carried out an attack on July 5 near Latakia to destroy the missiles, which Russia had sold to Syria. While the warehouse was destroyed, American intelligence analysts have now concluded that at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.

The officials who described the new assessment declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information.

Israeli officials have said that they do not intend to enter the civil war in Syria, but they have said they are prepared to prevent sophisticated weapons from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, which has joined the war to support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and which controlled the warehouse where the missiles were stored.

American and Israeli naval officials consider the missiles to be a serious threat to their ships.

After the Israeli attack, the Assad government sought to hide the fact that the missiles had been missed by setting fire to launchers and vehicles at the site to create the impression that the strike had landed a devastating blow, according to American intelligence reports.

The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment. Israel has a longstanding policy of silence on pre-emptive military strikes.

Another factor that could lead to a military response by Israel is the continuing flow of weapons to the Assad government, some of which Israel fears might make its way to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.

Russia, American officials say, recently sent SA-26 antiaircraft missiles to Syria, and it is also believed to be sending technical experts to help set up the system.

The Russians have also recently delivered two refurbished Mi-24 Hind helicopters to the Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria, for use by the Syrian military.

Russian officials have insisted that they are merely fulfilling old weapons contracts. But even the old contracts have involved the transfer of sophisticated arms.

In addition, American officials say that the transfer of Yakhont missiles to Hezbollah by Syria would violate an “end user agreement” that the Russian missiles would not be provided to third parties.

The July 5 attack near Latakia was the fourth known Israeli airstrike in Syria this year.

Providing new details about the raid, American officials said that the attack had been carried out by Israeli aircraft that flew over the eastern Mediterranean, fired air-to-ground missiles and never entered Syrian airspace. The route of the Israeli aircraft led to some erroneous reports that the attack had been carried out by an Israeli submarine.

In addition to targeting the Yakhont missiles, Israel carried out an airstrike in late January aimed at another system provided by Russia: a convoy of SA-17 surface-to-air missiles that Israeli officials believed were destined for Hezbollah.

Iran’s arms shipments are also a concern for the Israelis.

In May, Israeli warplanes conducted two days of airstrikes that targeted, among other things, a shipment of Fateh-110 missiles — mobile surface-to-surface missiles that had been provided by Iran and flown to Damascus, Syria, on transport planes that passed through Iraqi airspace.

The Fateh-110 missiles, which the Israelis feared were also intended for Hezbollah, have the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.

Iran has sent members of its paralilitary Quds force into Syria, under the supervision of Maj. Gen. Hossein Hamdani, a senior officer of the Quds force who is in charge of operations in Syria and oversees Iran’s arms shipments to Hezbollah, according to American intelligence officials. Hezbollah’s attempt to acquire weapons is supervised by Shaykh Salah, a senior official in charge of the militia’s operations in Lebanon, according to American officials.

Iran has also pressed Iraqi Shiites to join the fight in Syria in support of the Assad government. That includes about 200 members of the Badr Corps, Iraqis who were supported by Iran during Tehran’s long war against Saddam Hussein, and who later returned to Iraq after he was ousted from power, American officials say.

The support of Iran and Hezbollah for the Assad government, and Israel’s military interventions, reflects how the conflict has drawn in outside powers.

Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been arming the Syrian rebels, and Congress recently dropped objections to a proposal by President Obama to provide training and light arms to them.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Jihadists threaten Tunisia’s Arab Spring transition

The Jebel Chaambi mountains, established as a national park to protect curved-horned Barbary sheep and endangered species of gazelles in Tunisia’s southwest, has now become a haven for al-Qaeda in North Africa.

Assassins mounted on Vespas gun down two secular politicians. Roadside bombs cripple soldiers in the mountains. An ambush this week leaves eight soldiers dead – five with slit throats.

Among the countries of the Arab Spring, Tunisia is widely considered to have the best chance for a successful democracy, with Egypt in an increasingly bloody and complex crisis after a military coup, Libya beset by competing armed groups and Syria deep in a grinding full-scale war without apparent end. But the emergence of an armed al-Qaeda-linked jihadi group in the deep wooded valleys and caves of a mountainous region near the Algerian border threatens to derail the tenuous transition.

During a recent visit, The Associated Press discovered a remote region of unpaved streets, smugglers and strong distrust of the government, despite a stepped-up military effort to defeat the militants.

The Jebel Chaambi mountains, established as a national park to protect curved-horned Barbary sheep and endangered species of gazelles in Tunisia’s southwest, has now become a haven for al-Qaeda in North Africa.

The stakes are high for this North African nation, whose educated, mostly middle-class population kicked off revolutions around the Arab world in 2011, and which is on the cusp of completing a constitution written by Islamist and secular parties working together.

The government ascribes the mounting violence to a jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda’s branch in North Africa, including militants who fled the French military intervention in Mali. That threat is jeopardizing Tunisia’s delicate balance, exacerbating the climate of distrust between political parties and enraging many Tunisians who don’t think the moderate Islamist government is doing enough to take them down.

The unrest is challenging security services too underfunded and overstretched to fight a major terrorist threat, one that could also lead to attacks on Europe and undermine the democratic prospects of the Arab revolutions.

“Tunisia could become like Somalia. Other countries have the economic resources to fight terrorism but we have nothing,” Gen. Rachid Ammar, then the head of Tunisia’s army, warned at the end of June. “I see in Tunisia today signs that make me afraid and keep me from sleeping.” He resigned shortly after those comments.

The source of this fear is lurking in training camps hidden in Jebel Chaambi national park at the tail end of the Atlas Mountains that stretch across North Africa. It also hides in nearby cities and towns where smuggling, unemployment and resentment of the central government hold powerful sway.

Extremism was long kept in check under the strong-arm regime of secular dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but after Tunisians overthrew him in January 2011, political prisoners were given amnesty. The government says that among them were Islamist extremists who have gathered new Tunisian recruits and set up training camps with the help of Algerian al-Qaeda veterans and the support of ultraconservative Muslims, known as salafis.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African branch of the global terror network and patron of local jihadi groups, had originally taken a hands-off approach to Tunisia. That attitude is changing as the ruling moderate Islamist Ennahda Party has increasingly turned against salafists groups and reached out more to secular opposition parties. The party’s decision not to enshrine Islamic law in the new constitution earned it a sharp al-Qaeda rebuke.

In March, al-Qaeda issued a statement urging Tunisians not to join the hundreds already fighting in Syria, but instead to stay home and oppose efforts to secularize the country.

The Tunisian militants call their organization the Oqba Ibn Nafaa brigade, after the 7th-century Arab warrior who conquered Tunisia. Officials have linked it to the assassination of two left-wing politicians, one of whom was shot outside his home just last week in a killing that sparked broad anti-government protests.

After a roadside bomb blew the leg off a soldier patrolling the national park in April, Tunisia sent hundreds of soldiers to search for the militants in Jebel Chaambi. Two months and 10 explosions later, the army declared the mountain cleared, at a cost of three lives, 27 wounded and dozens arrested in the surrounding area – none of them part of the estimated 30 jihadists hiding there.

What the army did find, including documents, identification cards, food and weapons stashes, pointed to a well-organized group with ties to Al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch across the border in Algeria and even farther afield – and with support from the local population in nearby Kasserine. The ambush Monday that killed eight soldiers on the mountain also points to the group’s resilience.

Sgt. Mokhtar Mbarki searched the area for weeks, said his wife, Najat Rteebi, and there “they would find boxes of supplies, including pasta and cooking oil” clearly purchased locally. Mbarki was killed by his own men in a late-night friendly-fire incident in June that his 38-year-old wife, heavily pregnant and with three other children, says has not been adequately explained by authorities.

“Kasserine has always been a rebel region and the attitude of the population has always been one of disobedience,” said Samir Rahbi, a local activist with the left-wing Popular Front coalition. “They sympathize with anyone who rebels and this link of blood and regional ties is more important than the interests of the state.”

Ezzedine Messaoudi, who was detained for two hours while he was showing a journalist where his brother was injured by a land mine set off by a sheep, scoffed at the soldiers.

“Soldiers always have a problem with shepherds; they’re afraid we are helping the terrorists,” he said.

Kasserine is crisscrossed with angry graffiti declaring that “all cops are bastards” and asking “where is development for Kasserine?” It is filled with neighborhoods lacking real streets and there is little local industry to employ the large families that have resisted family planning programs so successful elsewhere in the country.

Much of the region survives on smuggling from Algeria, just a few dozen miles (kilometers) away. Roads are clogged with pickup trucks filled with jerry cans of illegal Algerian gasoline sold by the side of the road with apparent impunity.

“Everyone smuggles. Otherwise no one would eat,” said a well-dressed smuggler in his 30s who traffics in food and gasoline and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because of his illegal profession. “The police don’t have time to interfere – they let us work while they are busy with the bandits and terrorists.”

He said that in Ben Ali’s time, smuggling was rigidly controlled, usually by people with ties to the ruling family. Today, militants have used the lack of control and rampant growth of smuggling to their advantage. Where once guns and drugs were forbidden to smugglers, they are now an integral part of the trade.

When the jihadists set up shop, they hooked into these existing networks, much the way al-Qaeda took advantage of the Saharan smuggling networks in northern Mali until the French pushed them out in January. A local police commander, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss counterterror efforts, said the militants blended into the population, shaving their beards and wearing ordinary clothes.

The police force, largely discredited for its role as Ben Ali’s enforcer, has fared poorly since the breakdown of the police state. It has fallen to the army to secure banks, public institutions and even do riot control. Those tasks leave little time for securing the borders and counterterrorism.

Resource-poor Tunisia does not have the aircraft and monitoring technology to effectively police the thousands of miles of desert and mountain frontiers with Libya and Algeria. In a stark indication of the difference in capabilities between it and its wealthy neighbors, Tunisia sent 280 soldiers to search Jebel Chaambi during the crisis – while oil-rich and militarily powerful Algeria announced it would secure its side of the border with 6,000 new troops.

Military analyst Mohammed Ahmed, a retired lieutenant colonel, said the militants are in a process of “building the maquis,” referring to the mountain wilderness Algeria’s rebels used as bases to fight French colonialism in the 1950s.

“They are building infrastructure, finding people who share their ideas and training in arms,” he said. “If we do nothing, they will move into the active phase.”

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Hamas criticises Abbas’ demand for reintroduction of 2005 border agreement

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Mahmoud Abbas demands Egypt to reactivate the 2005 Crossings Agreement at the Rafah borderThe Islamic Resistance Movement has criticised the demand made by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for Egypt to reactivate the 2005 Crossings Agreement at the Rafah border. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Suhri pointed out that Abbas’s demand for the agreement to be back in force is essentially a demand for the Israelis to control the Gaza border again.

“The Rafah crossing was working smoothly before it was closed recently by the Egyptians”, he pointed out. “There were no administration or security problems.” He called for the government in Cairo to reopen the crossing.

The Palestinian Authority signed the 2005 Crossings Agreement with the Israelis. The agreement included the conditions and specifications for how the Rafah crossing had to operate. One of the conditions was the presence of international observers along with a live video feed to the Israelis so that they could block anyone from leaving or entering the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

PROTEST TEGEN PLAN KNESSET: ISRAËLISCHE VERDRIJVING VAN PALESTIJNSE BEDOEΪENEN IN DE NAQAB-WOESTIJN

 

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PERSBERICHT

Op 1 augustus vinden in diverse steden, waaronder in Amsterdam, protesten plaats tegen het plan van de Israёlische overheid om tienduizenden bedoeïenen in de Naqab woestijn van hun grond te verdrijven.  Het betreft het zogeheten Plan Prawer. Dit plan beoogt om huizen van dorpen en gehuchten van in totaal 70.000 leden van bedoeïenen families te slopen, hun land in beslag  te nemen voor de bouw van nieuwe Joodse woonplaatsen en de families in kwestie te deporteren naar een aantal desolate townships. Ondanks de grove mensenrechtenschendingen van dit Prawer Plan, besteedt de reguliere media weinig tot geen aandacht aan deze plannen van de Knesset.

Al sinds de oprichting van de joodse staat in 1948 zijn Israëlische regeringen er op uit om de bedoeïenen uit hun traditionele leefgebied in de Naqab woestijn te verjagen. Het betreft hier de meest grootschalige verdrijving van bedoeïenen sinds de jaren ’50.

Navrant is dat deze bevolkingsgroep niet onder Israëlische militaire bezetting leeft, maar deel uitmaakt van de Palestijnse minderheid die leeft in en staatsburger is van Israёl zelf. Het vestigt de aandacht op het feit dat Israëlische onderdrukking, apartheid en etnische zuivering zich ook uitstrekt tot de Palestijnse staatsburgers van de joodse staat die binnen de internationaal erkende grenzen van deze staat leven.

Eind juni heeft de Knesset het Prawer plan goedgekeurd. In reactie daarop heeft BNC (het Palestijnse nationale comité voor Boycot, Desinvesteren en Sancties tegen Israëlische bezetting en apartheid) de Interparlementaire Unie (IPU) opgeroepen tot actie om Israëlische parlementariërs uit het IPU te zetten, vanwege hun steun aan het Prawer plan. Op donderdag 1 augustus vinden overal in Palestina, Israёl maar ook daarbuiten protesten tegen het plan plaats. Zo ook morgen in Amsterdam.

 

Praktische informatie:
Datum: 1 augustus 2013
Locatie: Amsterdam Centraal Station
Tijdstip: 18.00 tot 19.30 uur

Video shows Israeli soldier beating Palestinian workers “without mercy”

 

جندي اسرائيلي يهاجم عمالا فلسطينيين

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1GvLkScJPeE

Video broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10 shows an Israeli soldier launching a brutal, unprovoked attack on several Palestinian workers.

Michael Gershkowitz of the Israeli army’s Kfir brigade, “attacked a group of Palestinian workers, beating three of them over and over again without mercy using his M-16 rifle,”Channel 10 said in a Hebrew-language report on Tuesday.

The horrifying incident occurred in April 2009 outside the Israeli Jewish-only settlement of Petzael in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley, where the workers were waiting for their employers, but the shocking footage has only just been made public.

The surveillance camera video shows that Gershkowitz, who was off-duty at the time, pulled his army-issued rifle from the trunk of his car, called one of the workers over, and then attacked him repeatedly for no reason. At one point, Gershkowitz forced the worker into the car and beat him inside it.

“Unbridled violence”

“He kicked him all over the body with no mercy until he fell,” Channel 10 said. Other workers came over and tried to calm the attacker, the report said, but Gershkowitz attacked and tried to beat them too.

Gershkowitz only stopped his “unbridled violence” several minutes later when a friend showed up and they fled the scene.

The worker who was most severly beaten, and who was not named in the report, lost eight teeth, according to his lawyer Lea Tsemel. Tsemel said the attack was like something from the movie Clockwork Orange.

Gershkowitz’s lawyer Avi Baram claimed his client had “wept” when he saw the footage. At trial, Gershkowitz received a token sentence of two months imprisonment and four months of community service.

Impunity

While violence against Palestinians and their property by Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers is routine, accountability is almost nonexistent. In the rare situations when a case comes to trial, the punishments, as in this one, are risibly light.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Israel’s Bedouin population faces mass eviction

If the Prawer Plan is approved in parliament this month, up to 70,000 could be removed from their ancestral homes, reports Noreen Sadik.

Physicians for Human Rights under a CC Licence
Child at an unrecognized Bedouin village, Negev Desert, Israel. 

Last Monday, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens in Israel called Palestinians from the Arab sector of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to hold a general strike and demonstrations in an act of solidarity against what could be the largest mass eviction of Palestinian citizens of Israel in over 60 years.

Despite the clouds of tear gas and the stench of skunk water, despite injuries and arrests, and despite the outrage of the international community, throughout the day thousands of protesters continued to voice their anger at the probable fate of the Bedouin population.

The Israeli government is not listening.

The Prawer Plan calls for the expulsion of between 40,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from 35 unrecognized villages, forcibly removing them from their ancestral homes, and depriving them of the right to retain any claim to their land. Implementation of the Plan will result in the destruction of the villages and confiscation of 210,040 acres.

The Negev makes up 60 per cent of Israel’s total land space. Eight per cent of Israel’s population resides there, and a third of the residents are from the Bedouin community.

Currently, the Bedouin population in the Negev numbers approximately 210,000. Just over half of them live in seven government-built Bedouin-only towns; the remaining 90,000 live in 46 villages – 35 of which are unrecognized and 11 of which were officially recognized 10 years ago, but still do not have any form of infrastructure.

In 2011, the Prawer Plan, named after Ehud Prawer, former Head of Department for Policy Planning, was first approved by the Israeli government. And just four weeks ago, in a 43-for and 40-against vote, the Plan passed its first reading in the Knesset (parliament). It will now go to the Committee of Interior and Environment for a second and third reading.

By the end of July 2013, prior to the closing of the current Knesset session, the Prawer Plan might be approved and enacted.

The fence

The passing of the Prawer Plan will lead to what the European Co-ordination Committee for Palestine (ECCP) believes is the government’s objective: ‘To encourage Jews to move south, especially to agricultural settlements, all the while aiming to destroy Arab villages that in some cases predate the creation of the state [while] planning 10 new settlements for Jews in the Negev in an attempt to Judaize the Negev.’

For centuries, the Bedouin community has been an integral part of the Negev Desert in historic Palestine. Prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948, 92,000 Bedouins lived on 99 per cent of the Negev land. But with its establishment, thousands were expelled or fled to neighbouring countries.

In 1950, the Israeli military government relocated the remaining 11,000 Bedouins to a restricted area called the Siyag (enclosure/fence). They not only lost rich agricultural land, but their traditional way of life was affected.

The Prawer Plan calls for the expulsion of between 40,000 and 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel from 35 unrecognized villages, depriving them of the right to retain any claim to their land

Even though Bedouin villages existed prior to Israel’s establishment or were built due to government military orders, the government regards the Bedouin people as squatters, trespassers and invaders of State land. Their villages were ultimately declared illegal and have thus remained unrecognized over the years.

These unrecognized villages are devoid of any form of infrastructure or municipal services. They are not hooked up to the water, sewer and electricity systems, nor do they have educational or health services, or even roads. The few elementary schools are overcrowded and unequipped, and there are no high schools.

In 1969, Tel Sheva, the first government-built town, was established. Although a large number of Bedouins were once again relocated, some went willingly, giving up the right to their lands.

The seven Bedouin towns, with a population of 120,000, are the most impoverished in Israel. Sixty-seven per cent of the families of these overcrowded towns live in poverty. They suffer from high drop-out rates from school (70 per cent in the unrecognized villages), high unemployment, high birth rates and high infant mortality rates, and high crime.

But all this must be put into context of the conditions under which they live. For 64 years the Bedouins’ lives have been defined by dispossession of land, home demolitions, displacement, and relocation.

Demolition of Bedouin homes in the Negev is a common occurrence. In 2011, approximately 1,000 homes and animal pens were demolished.

The ECCP stated: ‘Making more of the Bedouin population move into impoverished urban slums against their will where there are few economic opportunities will further entrench cycles of poverty.’

An alternative plan

Members of the Bedouin community were not consulted when the Prawer Plan was written, nor was what is best for them according to their traditional lifestyle taken into consideration.

Dr Thabet Abu Rass, the Director of Adalah (the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) Negev office, said, ‘The Bedouin are rejecting the plan and prefer to maintain and preserve their traditional way of life.’

The ECCP agrees: ‘The plan disregards Bedouin property rights and fails to recognize Bedouin land ownership and violates residents’ rights to due process and rights to appeal against eviction and demolition orders.’

And to add insult to injury, compensation is based on certain conditions. According to Adalah, ‘essentially, only those Bedouin whose villages were in the Siyag prior to the establishment of Israel and who still currently use their lands are eligible for partial compensation in the form of land. The internally displaced population, however, who claim land outside of the Siyag, can only receive monetary compensation.’ Furthermore, states Adalah, ‘compensation will amount to a maximum of 50 per cent of the land claimed, though reasonable estimates reveal that the Bedouin will receive only about 16 per cent.’

The Bedouin community have found their voices through the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages and Bikom – Planners for Planning Rights, who have joined them in their fight against the Prawer Plan.

In 2011, they created an alternative plan based on the existing villages remaining on their land, which, according to their joint statement, ‘would provide a basis for a viable development of the region, as a whole, while maintaining the principles of equality, recognition and justice.’

The alternative plan sets ‘protecting human rights, civil and gender equality, and distributive justice and affirmative action as the guiding principles for the planning of the Bedouin settlements.’

Other points concentrate on recognition of the villages in their current locations; involvement of the communities in determining their future and shaping their living space; consideration of the traditional Bedouin land system; maintenance of the Bedouin lifestyle, landscape and cultural heritage; creation of conditions to improve economic development and reduce economic gaps in the area; and protection of open areas and natural resources.

‘The Israeli government is moving in the dangerous direction of becoming an apartheid regime with a new way of dealing with Palestinian citizens of Israel,’ believes Abu Rass. ‘This is the first time since 1948 that certain areas are closed for Arab citizens. This is the first time since 1948 that Arab towns are being demolished and Jewish towns are being built on their ruins.’

He believes that the lands of the Negev are large enough to accommodate all government projects without destroying the Bedouin villages: ‘The criteria for creating a settlement is that it have a population of 40 people. The Negev’s Bedouins in the unrecognized villages amount to thousands of people, and they are asking for only five and one-half per cent of the land.’

The 35 unrecognized villages are not on any official map of Israel, creating a surreal lack of existence of the residents. If demolished, they will be just a memory of destroyed lives of people who refuse to remain invisible.

(Source / 31.07.2013)

Israeli army recruitment plan aims to incite Christian-Muslim tensions

Men carry banner reading Yaffa says no to racism and settlements in Arabic and Hebrew

Critics of a new Israeli army recruitment campaign say it’s designed to fragment the Palestinian community and make it more difficult to obtain their rights.

Leaders of Israel’s Palestinian minority have accused the Israeli authorities of intensifying efforts to push Christian and Muslim communities into conflict, as part of a long-running divide-and-rule strategy towards the country’s Palestinian citizens.

The allegations have been prompted by a series of initiatives to pressure Christian school-leavers into the army, breaking the community’s blanket rejection of the Israel army draft for the past 65 years.

Leaders from the Palestinian community, Christian and Muslim, who have spoken against this new enlistment effort have been called in for investigation by Israel’s secret police. In an Orwellian inversion, they have been accused of “incitement to violence.”

The issue first came to prominence last October when the defense ministry quietly staged a conference close to Nazareth, the effective capital of Palestinians in Israel, to promote military service among Christians.

The participation of three local clergymen in the conference sent shock waves through the Muslim and Christian communities.

The move was seen as a prelude to launching a more general recruitment drive amongPalestinian Christians. Currently both Christians and Muslims, comprising nearly a fifth of Israel’s population, are exempt from conscription.

Instilling “Zionist values”

In an apparently related step in July, a Christian in Nazareth whose brother is an official in the defense ministry announced the establishment of a Christian-Jewish party. Municipal elections are due in late October.

The movement, which also runs an enlistment forum to encourage Christians to serve in the army, has paired with a far-right Jewish group, Im Tirtzu.

Im Tirtzu has been behind various McCarthyite campaigns, including pressuring Israeli universities to dismiss staff seen as left-wing; lobbying to strengthen “Zionist values” in the school curriculum; and seeking penalties for Israeli nongovernmental organizations supporting the rights of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Officials in Nazareth have warned that their city is at risk of becoming a flash-point for inter-communal fighting if Israel continues to stir up sectarian tensions.

Dominated by its Christian institutions but with a two-thirds Muslim majority, Nazareth has been struggling to temper sectarian divisions since the late 1990s. That was when the Israeli government promoted a provocative project to build a mosque next to the city’s main Christian pilgrimage site, the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Israel’s Palestinian Christians, numbering 125,000, or about nine percent of the Palestinian minority, are mostly located in Nazareth and its surrounding villages.

Divide and conquer

The issue of military service is an especially contentious one for the Palestinian minority, said Azmi Hakim, leader of the Greek Orthodox community council in Nazareth.

Most Palestinian citizens refuse to join the army because they reject the role of the Israeli military in oppressing other Palestinians and in enforcing an occupation that violates international law. However, there are strong objections on other grounds.

“Israel has tried to use military service as a way to break us up as a national group since the state’s earliest days,” Hakim said. “It wants us to be weak, separate religious communities incapable of organizing and demanding our rights.”

The Druze community, of a similar size to the Christian one, has been conscripted into the army since the 1950s. As a consequence, Israel designated the Druze a national group distinct from the rest of the Palestinian minority, and created a separate education system to inculcate “Zionist values.”

Israel has also persuaded some Bedouins to volunteer as army trackers. Otherwise, only a tiny number of Christians and Muslims request to have their exemption waived — in most cases, according to scholar Rhoda Kanaaneh, in the hope of accruing extra financial benefits related to army service.

Abir Kopty, a former Nazareth councilor, said that Israel had long tried to instill in Christians an insecurity towards their Muslim neighbors.

“Israel’s goal is to make Christians feel like a vulnerable minority and that they will be safer only if they have been trained by the army and have a gun. We hear Christian youngsters who consider enlistment saying things like, ‘I want to protect myself and my family,’” she said.

In similar fashion, Druze youths have been known to turn their weapons on Christian and Muslim neighbors when disputes have arisen. In one notorious incident, in 2003, Druze soldiers fired an anti-tank missile at a church in the village of Rama in the Galilee (“Communal pitfalls,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 6-12 March 2003).

Sectarian campaign

The pro-enlistment conference held in October was arranged by Ehab Shlayan, a career officer in the Israeli military from Nazareth who was recently appointed as “adviser on Christian issues” in the defense ministry.

It was staged in Upper Nazareth, a city established on Nazareth’s lands in the 1950s as part of Israel’s project to “Judaize the Galilee,” the area where the Palestinian community in Israel is concentrated. The mayor, Shimon Gapso, an ally of Avigdor Lieberman’s far-rightYisrael Beiteinu party, helped sponsor the event.

Palestinian leaders said Gapso’s role was entirely cynical.

Last year Gapso described Nazareth as a “nest of terror” and called on the government to cut all funding to the city. He argued that Nazareth’s residents should be expelled to Gaza.

In recent years he has angrily denounced the growing trend for families from Nazareth, many of them Christian, to move to his city, with much of the migration spurred by land shortages that have made it increasingly difficult to build in Nazareth.

Palestinians now comprise as much as a quarter of Upper Nazareth’s population, but Gapso has publicly declared they are unwelcome. He recently erected large Israeli flags at all entrances to the city “so that people will know Upper Nazareth is a Jewish city.”

Gapso’s antipathy towards the Palestinian minority has demonstrably included Christians. In winter 2010 he banned Christmas trees from all public buildings, and has refused to allow the establishment of a church in his city.

Recent reports revealed that he secretly appointed a “settlement adviser” – Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, a settler from Hebron – on ways to bring extremist religious Jews to the city in the hope of driving out Palestinian residents “Mysterious ‘adviser on settlement affairs’ no. 13 on Habayit Hayehudi slate,” Haaretz, 11 January).

“Good Arabs”

News of the conference on recruiting Christian community members was revealed on social media a short time after it was held in October. More than 120 Christian teenagers were reported to have attended, mostly drawn from the local Greek Catholic and Maronite scout groups.

However, the fact that three senior clergy from Nazareth took part and spoke in favor of Christian enlistment has caused particular consternation.

They include 39-year-old Bishop Jibril Nadaf, from the Greek Orthodox community, the largest Christian denomination in Israel, and Father Masoud Abu Hatoum, of the Greek Catholic community.

Nazareth’s Greek Orthodox council, an elected body that represents the community’s interests in the city, immediately issued a statement denouncing Nadaf’s participation. A short time later the patriarch in Jerusalem, Theophilus III, barred Nadaf from entering the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

According to church officials, Theophilus will announce Nadaf’s relocation to Jerusalem in the next few weeks.

Azmi Hakim said Israel had been trying to find a way to recruit Christians to the army – to sever them from the 80 percent of the minority who are Muslim – since the state’s creation. The chief obstacle, he said, had been finding a religious leader who would give the initiative the stamp of the church’s approval.

“Now they think they have a way to split the Christian community by using Nadaf’s authority to justify an enlistment drive,” he said. “But only the council can speak for the community.”

Nadaf has also been criticized by Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, including MK Haneen Zoabi from the Balad party and MK Muhammad Barakeh fromHadash. Both have called for his dismissal.

So far Nadaf has remained defiant. He stated in June: “We want young Christians to be completely integrated into Israeli society, and this means also carrying an equal share of the burden. Our future as a Christian minority is wrapped up in the future of the State of Israel” (“Arab pastor: Our future is with Israel,” Israel Today, 9 July).

Nadaf’s mention of “sharing the burden” was a reference to a government campaign to justify continuing to deny Palestinian citizens their rights unless they either serve in the military or perform an equivalent civilian service.

Nadaf has since received public calls of support from government ministers, most notably from the justice minister Tzipi Livni and the interior minister Gideon Saar.

Activists harassed

Likud MK Miri Regev, who heads the Knesset’s interior committee, this month criticized the Palestinian MKs’ intervention, calling them “Trojan horses in the Knesset.” She accused them of “incitement against a Christian priest who encourages young Christians to enlist in the IDF [Israel’s military].”

The Israeli publication Ynet reported that the police had received “a green light” to question the MKs for possible incitement (“Arab MKs to be questioned on suspicion of incitement,” Ynetnews.com, 3 July).

Those who have led opposition to the conference have found themselves called in for interrogation by the police and Israel’s domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet. They have been warned that they are under investigation for “incitement to violence.”

Hakim said he had been called for interrogation on three occasions since he and the council denounced Nadaf.

He was also phoned by the Shin Bet two hours before the council met to issue its statement: “They warned me, ‘This is bigger than you or the council.’ They told me not to get involved.”

He has faced a hate campaign and death threats ever since the council issued its statement. “Shortly afterwards, I received an anonymous phone call identifying my children, my place of work and my home address. I was told people would come for me, to behead me,” he said.

He has repeatedly complained about a Hebrew hate site on Facebook created in his name. Despite repeated complaints to the police, nothing appears to have been done to remove the page.

Azmi Hakim, the Greek Orthodox community leader in Nazareth, was required to sign a statement that he would not approach or contact Nadaf but has refused to sign another stating that he would not mention his name.

Abir Kopty was also called for interrogation after writing a blog post in Arabic and Englishcriticizing those who participated in the conference.

The Shin Bet have demanded of all those brought in for interrogation an unexpected condition: that they agree to provide a DNA sample.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Adalah legal center for the Arab minority in Israel, said the requirement to submit to a DNA test was illegal in both Hakim and Kopty’s cases.

This month Adalah sent a letter to the attorney general saying there was no basis for an investigation of either of them. Bishara said: “This is clearly a free speech matter and the investigations are a transparent attempt to intimidate and silence them.”

New Jewish-Christian party

In an apparent sign that Israeli officials are now keen to push ahead with enlistment, a new Jewish-Christian party was established in Nazareth this month called “Sons of the New Testament.”

The founder, Bishara Shilyan, a 58-year-old former merchant navy captain, has several sons who volunteered for the army. His brother, Ehab Shilyan, works for the defense ministry as an adviser on Christian issues.

Bishara Shilyan, who refers to himself as an “Arabic-speaking Israeli Christian,” told the New York-based Jewish weekly the Algemeiner Journal: “We live in Israel, and I feel a part of the state and the Jewish People. Israel belongs to the Jews, and we are part of it.”

The campaign is reported to have already increased enlistment among school leavers. According to the Maariv newspaper, 90 Christians joined the Israeli military in recent months, a threefold increase from 2010.

Shilyan’s party has sought to play on Christian fears of what it describes as a growing “Muslim threat” in the region, as Islamic movements struggle for power in neighboring countries such as Egypt and Syria. “People see what’s happening now in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria,” Shilyan told the Times of Israel. “They understand where we’re living” (“New Christian Arab party calls for IDF enlistment,” 10 July 2013).

That message was echoed in an editorial in The Jerusalem Post, which rallied to Bishop Nadaf’s side: “Trying to survive under the Muslim thumb inside Israel’s Arab sector, Christians have kept a low profile, striven to give no offense and toed even the most extremist line to evince loyalty and avoid risk. … Those young Christians now eager to break the cycle should be encouraged, not discouraged” (“Father Nadaf,” 26 June).

Shilyan’s forum has been coordinating with the defense ministry in arranging regular meetings with Israeli Jewish Knesset members. The Israeli military recently announced that it had made Christian conscription easier at the nearest office in the Galilee, in Tiberias.

Shilyan is among those arguing that the Israeli military could increase enlistment numbers if it stopped assigning Christians to the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion, where they serve alongside Bedouin soldiers.

Sectarianism

The Israeli military also has a poor track record in its treatment of Palestinian soldiers. It was recently widely reported that, under pressure, the military had finally agreed to allow non-Jewish soldiers killed in action to be buried in the same cemeteries as Jewish soldiers, although they will be kept in separate rows.

The matter came to a head on Memorial Day this year because the chief of staff, Benny Gantz, following traditional practice, laid a wreath on the grave of the last Jewish soldier to have been killed over the past year. As a result, he overlooked a soldier whose Jewishness was in doubt.

According to some observers, Shilyan has received support from a small group of Palestinian Christians based in the nearby town of Kafr Yasif who have adopted Christian Zionist positions. This has led to suggestions that the party may be receiving funds fromChristian Zionist groups in the United States.

Hakim said the government’s latest efforts to recruit Christians to the army were a continuation of its meddling in Nazareth in the late 1990s, in what has come to be known as the “Shihab al-Din affair.”

In the run-up to the arrival of Pope John Paul II for the millennium celebrations in Nazareth, the Israeli government gave the go-ahead to a group of Muslims to build a large mosque in a square in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation, the destination for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. The square is the resting place of Shihab al-Din, a nephew of the Crusaders’ nemesis, Saladin.

The decision surprised observers, both because the mosque threatened to overshadow the Basilica and because it required unprecedented Israeli state recognition of Muslim claims to restitution of property confiscated in the 1948 war.

As the Muslim group took over the site, tensions escalated and by Easter 1999 violent clashes between Muslims and Christians were reported on front pages around the world.

Israel later reneged on its promises to the Muslim group and in 2003 demolished the foundations of the mosque that were under construction (“Divide and destroy,” Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 July 2003).

Widely-held suspicions in Nazareth are that the government sought to inflame sectarian violence in Nazareth at that time, shortly before peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership at Camp David in 2000, to help strengthen Israel’s case that only it could be entrusted to look after the holy sites in Jerusalem in a final-status agreement.

Accounts from Camp David suggest that Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, remained adamant that Israel should have exclusive sovereignty over the al-Aqsacompound of mosques in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Longstanding policy

The latest moves to recruit Christians to the army echo earlier efforts by Israeli officials, as part of a policy that sought to undermine the Palestinian population’s cohesion and its national identity.

A key figure among the Christians in the state’s early years was George Hakim, the Greek Catholic bishop for the Galilee.

According to Hillel Cohen, author of Good Arabs, a book about early collaboration by Palestinian leaders, Hakim sold church lands close to Nazareth in the early 1940s to Jewish pre-state organizations. He also established a Christian militia during the 1948 war.

It was therefore perhaps unsurprising that he and many of his followers, unlike most other refugees, were allowed to return from exile in Lebanon at the end of the war in 1949.

Hakim went on to transform the Catholic Scouts into a Zionist youth movement opposed to the Communist party, a joint Jewish-Arab party popular among Israel’s Palestinian citizens. It was then the only non-Zionist political movement allowed.

In 1958 Hakim considered signing an agreement with the army similar to that of the Druze leadership, but found little support among the wider Christian community. A photograph inGood Arabs shows Hakim seated next to Druze leader Sheikh Amin Tarif at an Israeli military parade for Independence Day in 1959.

The logic of Israel’s moves to recruit the Christians and Druze was explained in 1965 by Shmuel Toledano, the prime minister’s Arab affairs adviser: “The communal frameworks of religious and linguistic groups should be fostered, except for the Muslim, and the individuality of each and every separate community should be consolidated.”

Recent events highlight that this policy formulated in the state’s early years – to use sectarian differences to isolate the largest Palestinian community, of Muslims, from their Christian and Druze compatriots – holds to this day.

With Palestinian communal solidarity seen as a serious threat to the state’s Jewishness, Israel would prefer to push Muslims, Christians and Druze into open conflict.

(Source / 31.07.2013)