Palestinians kidnapped as IOF rolls into West Bank, Jerusalem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) overnight on Monday and at dawn on Tuesday kidnapped Palestinian civilians from the occupied West Bank and occupied Jerusalem. The IOF rolled into al-Khalil, in the southern West Bank, and kidnapped 19-year-old Abdul Rahman al-Saleebi from Beit Ummar town. The campaign culminated in the abduction of another Palestinian youth, identified as Mustafa Hamad, from the Qalandiya refugee camp, in Occupied Jerusalem. Overnight on Monday, an Israeli special unit kidnapped the Palestinian youngster Fadi Darwish from Jerusalem’s town of al-Issawiya. Local sources also kept record of the abduction of three Palestinians from Nablus city. Meanwhile, an Israeli undercover unit stormed a café in al-Issawiya late on Monday evening and kidnapped a Palestinian youth. The IOF also rolled into Alezariya town, in eastern Occupied Jerusalem, and came down heavily on Palestinian commuters. A number of Palestinian youths were detained and provocatively inspected by the IOF in Jabal al-Mukbir area. The occupation army reportedly tightened grip at Israeli military checkpoints pitched across Occupied Jerusalem.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Youngest freed Palestinian prisoner fears re-arrest

‘The Israeli soldier dragged me, pushed me down, made my face on the ground, tied my hands with cuffs and put his leg on my back,’ Dima said.

The youngest freed Palestinian prisoner Dima al-Wawi, 12, is afraid to be re-arrested by Israeli occupation.

“She is too young to be arrested, attend a court hearing, charged or sentenced,” the lawyer said. “Then, she was interrogated by several harsh interrogators and recognised accusations under torture.”

Days of Palestine, West Bank -The youngest freed Palestinian prisoner Dima al-Wawi, 12, is afraid to be re-arrested by Israeli occupation.

Al-Wawi, who was released from Israeli prisons on Sunday, is currently at her home in the city of Halhoul, near the occupied West Bank governorate of Al-Khalil.

She receives guests celebrating her release after spending 75 days inside Israeli prisons over fake claims that she attempted to stab Israeli soldiers.

The little primary school girls hesitated when Days of Palestine reporter asked her to answer his questions about her imprisonment, but after her mother had encouraged her, she answered some of the questions.

About her experience with the Israeli interrogators, she said: “An interrogator came to me while I was staying at a very small room, he asked me whether I am Fatah or Hamas. I remained silent, he screamed, I remained silent and he repeated this several times. Then, he left and another one came and did the same thing.”

Looking shocked, she continued: “Several interrogators asked me the same questions and at the end I said I am Hamas. The same thing happened when they asked me whether I wanted to stab and Israeli soldier.”

Describing the horrible situation of her condition inside the Israeli jails, she said: “I do not remember how many days I stayed isolated in a small cell. I even did not know how many days I spent in prison. I am afraid. They [the Israeli interrogators] threatened me to take me back to prison sooner or later.

“I am afraid as they threatened me that I would not be back to my schools. They said that they would beat my parents and my brothers and sister. They told me they would destroy my house and keep me locked under house arrest.”

Nail-cutter

Her father described her detention as a “shameful act in the forehead of Israel, which claims it is the sole democracy in the region.”

He explained: “Israel dealt with my daughter as an adult criminal; however, she is a child and the allegations of the Israeli soldier that she planned to stab one of them are false. All what she had was a nail-cutter.”

Al-Wawi’s lawyer described all the Israeli measures with Dima as illegal acts because she is minor and still under legal liability.

“She is too young to be arrested, attend a court hearing, charged or sentenced,” the lawyer said. “Then, she was interrogated by several harsh interrogators and recognised accusations under torture.”

The lawyer said that Dima was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer or any of her parents or relatives. “This is opposed by the international law and even the Israeli law,” he said.

The 12-year-old Palestinian girl was convicted of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier and illegal possession of a knife by an Israeli military court in February.

According to the indictment, she set out to stab an Israeli soldier, but was apprehended at the entrance to the settlement of Karmei Tzur, where a knife was found in her possession.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Analysis: Failed Abbas is probed, derided and scapegoated

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, on Sept. 1, 2015

By: Ramzy Baroud
“We won’t act like them, we will not use violence or force, we are peaceful, we believe in peace, in peaceful popular resistance.” This was part of a message issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in October, only days after a few incidents took place in which Palestinian youth were accused of attacking Israeli soldiers and settlers with knives.The message would have carried some weight were it not laden with contradictions. On one hand, Abbas’ supposed “peace” quest has only entrenched the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and all but completely isolated illegally occupied and annexed East Jerusalem.Moreover, what “peaceful popular resistance” is Abbas, 80, referring to? What war of “peaceful” national liberation has he been leading? And how could a leader, ever so unpopular, be leading a “popular resistance” anyway?Just two weeks before Abbas made that statement in which he referred to some illusory “popular resistance” under his command, a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah revealed that a majority of Palestinians, 65% of respondents, want him to resign.Of course, while Abbas continues to prophesize about some non-existent peace — as he has done for most of his lucrative career — Israel continues to wreak havoc on Palestinians, using every means of violence at its disposal.Granted, Israel’s propensity to maintain its violent occupation cannot be blamed on Abbas. It is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition that should be blamed squarely for the occupation and the mistreatment and humiliation of Palestinians on a daily basis.However, such truth should not detract from Abbas’ terrible legacy and ongoing misconduct. In fact, some urgent questions must be asked in that regard:If Abbas is such a peacenik, why is his military budget so disproportionately large?According to information published by Visualizing Palestine, 31 percent of the PA budget is spent on the military and policing of the West Bank. Compare this to 18 percent on education, 13 percent on health and only 1 percent on agriculture. The latter percentage is particularly troubling, considering that Palestinian land, orchards, and olive groves are the main target for Israel, which usurps the land in order to expand its military zones and illegal settlements.The huge discrepancy between funds allocated to Palestinian security forces — which never confront Israel’s military occupation, only Palestinian resistance — and those spent to assist farmers in their “sumoud” (steadfastness) while their land is being targeted and confiscated daily, is a testament to the mixed priorities of Abbas and his Authority.Even Israel, which is obsessed with its security, and manages several fronts of war and military occupation spends only 22 percent of its total budget on the military, which is still quite high by average standards.Abbas’ “peace” is, of course, quite selective. He rules over occupied Palestinians with an iron fist, rarely tolerates dissent within his party, Fatah’s, ranks, and has done his utmost to isolate the Gaza Strip and sustain a state of conflict with his enemies in the Hamas movement.More recently, and due to mere criticism leveled at him by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a prominent Palestinian faction and PLO member, Abbas decided to choke them of funds. In Abbas’ “peaceful” world, there is zero room for tolerance.The PFLP criticism was a response to statements he made on Israeli television.In a recent interview, he insisted that security coordination with Israel is a top priority for him. Without such coordination, the PA will find itself “on the brink of collapse,” he told Israel Channel 2 on March 31.Apart from apprehending suspected Palestinian resisters, the security coordination includes searching school children’s bags for knives, according to the Palestinian leader. “Our security forces are entering schools and checking if students are carrying knives. In one school, we found 70 students with knives, and we told them that this was wrong. I told them I do not want you to kill someone and die; I want you to live and for others to live, too.”Abbas’ statement on life and death does not, in the least, address the context of oppression, the humiliation of military occupation and the prevailing sense of despair that exists among young Palestinians, caught between a belligerent, violent occupation, and a submissive leadership.Convincing them not to “kill someone and die,” involved “the security forces arresting the students who were found with knives, questioning them, torturing them, and threatening their families,” wrote Palestinian commentator Munir Shafiq.“We only need to listen to the experiences of many who were tortured by the Israeli Shabak and the Palestinian security agencies, who said that the Palestinian security agencies are harsher, more barbaric and more brutal than the Shabak,” Shafiq wrote in Arabi21. So much for being “peaceful” and “believing in peace.”Writing in Rai al-Youm, Kamal Khalf wonders if it is time to look into the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has ruled with an expired mandate for years. While refraining from any personal attack on Abbas, Khalf raises the possibility whether the PA president’s emotional and psychological well-being in his old age ought to be questioned, especially when one considers some of his latest statements: attacking Palestinian resistance, searching children’s schoolbags, and avowing his love for Israeli music.When Abbas Zaki, the well-respected member of Fatah’s Central Committee, returned from a recent visit to Tehran, he was attacked by Abbas who “accused him of receiving $50,000 from the Iranians and he demanded the money be given to him instead,” he wrote.The number of Abbas’ bizarre actions and strange statements seem to be increasing with age. It is no secret, of course, that there has been much discussion about succession within Fatah and the PA, once Abbas is no longer in the picture. Until then, such eccentricity should be expected.However, it is essential that the discussion does not entirely focus on Abbas, for he is merely representative of a whole class of usurpers who have used the Palestinian cause to advance their own positions, wealth and prestige.There is little evidence to suggest that Abbas’ current position — soft on the occupation, hard on the Palestinians — is new, or motivated by age and mental health. For the sake of fairness, the arbitrator of the Oslo accords has been consistent in this regard.Since Arafat’s death in 2004, and his advent to power through a questionable democratic process in 2005, Abbas has worked laboriously to coexist with the Israeli occupation but failed to co-exist with his own Palestinian rivals.True, it has been a decade of unmitigated Palestinian leadership failure, but it certainly took more than Abbas to manage that political fiasco. Now, at 80, Abbas seems to have become a scapegoat for a whole class of Palestinians which has worked to manage the occupation and benefit from it.
(Source / 26.04.2016)

More than 80% of US Senators to increase aid to Israel

US Senators think $3.1 billion per year is not enough to pay for Israel

More than four-fifths of the US Senate signed a letter pressuring American President Barack Obama to boost military aid to Israel, Reuters reported Monday.

The letter does not specify by how much exactly US military aid should be increased. The Israeli government wants $4 billion to $4.5 billion, yet some US officials have proposed $3.7 billion

More than four-fifths of the US Senators signed a letter pressuring American President Barack Obama to boost military aid to Israel, Reuters reported Monday.

Out of 100 Senators, 83 signed a letter, including 51 (94 percent) of the 54 Republicans and 32 (73 percent) of the 44 Democrats.

The US gives more than $3 billion in unconditional military aid to Israel every single year; more than any other country recipient to American aids.

In fact, more than half of US foreign military financing goes to Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey.

The vast majority of the Senate, however, thinks $3.1 billion per year is not enough.

The bipartisan initiative was led by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons. Their letter calls on Obama to quickly reach an agreement on a military aid package for Israel.

The letter does not specify by how much exactly US military aid should be increased. The Israeli government wants $4 billion to $4.5 billion, yet some US officials have proposed $3.7 billion.

According to the UN, the Israeli military killed more than 2,250 Palestinians, roughly two-thirds of whom were civilians, including at least 550 children, in its 51-day attack on the densely populated Gaza Strip, bombing civilian homes, hospitals, schools, places of worship and shelters for displaced people.

The senators’ letter, which was obtained by Reuters, asserts “we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge.”

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Journalists arrested in Egypt, others banned from reaching protest

Egyptian security forces

File photo of Egyptian security forces

The Egyptian security forces yesterday arrested three journalists in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate building in central Cairo, and prevented others from reaching the area ahead of protests against Egypt’s transfer of sovereign control of the Red Sea Islands Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

Journalist Osama Daoud, who monitors abuses suffered by journalists, told the Anadolu Agencythat the security forces arrested journalists; Basma Mustafa, Ashraf Al-Shamm’a and Mustafa Redha and prevented journalist Mohamed Abdul Quddus from entering the headquarters.

Daoud said the syndicate is communicating with the ministry of interior to release the three journalists and to allow reporters to enter the syndicate.

He explained that the security apparatus has installed metal barricades on the roads leading to the Journalists’ Syndicate and prevented citizens from crossing.

The Egyptian security forces yesterday increased their presence in downtown Cairo to block protests called for by political and opposition forces against the deal.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Unemployment rate in Gaza reaches 60%

Gaza has been under strict Israeli siege for ten years

Sixty per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip is unemployed, while 70 per cent live in poverty.

“Palestinian workers in Gaza have been experiencing the worst reality for ten years,” the GFPTU, warning of “disastrous” living standards under the Israeli policy of tightening the siege.

Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip -Sixty per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip is unemployed, while 70 per cent live in poverty.

Secretary-General of the General Federation of Palestine’s Trades Unions in Gaza (GFPTU), Sami Al-Amassi, said: “Palestinian workers live in accumulated suffering caused by the Israeli occupation which tightens the siege, closes crossings and bans the entry of raw materials.”

“Palestinian workers in Gaza have been experiencing the worst reality for ten years,” he said, warning of “disastrous” living standards under the Israeli policy of tightening the siege.

Al-Amassi called for Egypt to open the Rafah Crossing to allow the entry of basic essentials. He also called for the Arab states, the United Nations and everyone with a “conscience” to put pressure on the Israeli occupation in order to lift the siege.

Regarding the role of the Palestinian Unity Government, Al-Amassi said: “Since the first day it was formed, it has never offered a single work opportunity for any of the unemployed workers, who received only illusive promises announced by the Labour Minister Mamoun Abu Shahla.”

He called working conditions to be improved, including increasing the minimum wage, noting that staff work for long hours on low wages in a clear violation of the Labour Law.

Internal Palestinian divisions must be eliminated in order to reprioritise the agenda, he said.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Syrian Coalition Calls for ISSG Meeting to Press Assad to Abide by UNSC 2254

The Syrian Coalition called on the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) to hold a meeting to force the Assad regime to implement Articles 12 and 13 of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 concerning the improvement of the humanitarian situation in Syria.

The Coalition also called on the ISSG to develop mechanisms in order to hold violators of the truce to account.

In a meeting with ISSG representatives for development and the economy in the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Tuesday, the Coalition’s president Anas al-Abdah said that the revolution’s political and military forces expect a serious response by the international community towards the Assad regime’s daily violations of the truce.

Abda pointed out that the political process in Geneva is now at stake, adding that the Assad regime continues to bomb civilians, refuses to lift the blockades on the besieges areas, hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid and refuses to release detainees.

Abda said that the Syrian people now feel they have been abandoned by the international community whose response to the political process and humanitarian situation in Syria has fallen short of meeting the Syrian people’s needs.

Abdah stressed the need for supporting the Syrian interim government and the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) as the executive branches of the Coalition. He added that these two bodies are under restructuring with the aim to increase efficiency to better serve the Syrian people.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 26.04.2016)

Hamas: Abbas’ withdrawal of international complaint over the Israeli settlements ‘scandalous’

Islamic Resistance Movement -Hamas

Islamic Resistance Movement -Hamas

The head of the Legal Committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council accused the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of “conspiring against the Palestinian cause” describing him as “a failed lawyer”.

The Secretary of Change and Reform bloc, the parliamentary bloc of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), said that the postponement of presenting a draft resolution concerning the Israeli settlement before the UN Security Council is a step that “serves the occupation’s interests.”

In a statement released yesterday, Mohammed Faraj Al-Ghul said that Abbas was subjected to Israeli, French and international pressure, and he prevented Israeli leaders from being brought before the International Criminal Court.  “Abbas is working in a dictatorial way,” he said.

“Withdrawing the international complaint … is a scandalous decision,” Al-Ghul continued, stressing that Palestinian rights are “fixed” and that neither Abbas nor anybody else are authorised to waive these rights.

“Abbas is continuing with the security coordination with the occupation, and is giving up a right” that all Palestinian factions agreed on.

By refusing to complain against Israeli settlements at the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council, Abbas “confirms that he is not qualified to lead the Palestinian people.”

The Hamas MP said that settlements on Palestinian land are a form of “occupation” and one of the international crimes specified by the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute.

He noted that the occupation’s insistence on settlement building is a “full-fledged crime” according to international law.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday that Abbas withdrew from presenting a draft resolution on Israeli settlements before the UN Security Council out of “fear” of the failure of the French peace initiative.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Did the Arabs Betray Palestine?

Palestinian protestors walks under a huge Palestinian flag in Gaza, on April 2016.

Palestinian protestors walks under a huge Palestinian flag in Gaza, on April 2016

By Ramzy Baroud

At the age of 21, I crossed Gaza into Egypt to pursue a degree in political science. The timing could have not been worse. The Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had resulted in a US-led international coalition and a major war, which eventually paved the road for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I became aware that Palestinians were suddenly ‘hated’ in Egypt because of Yasser Arafat’s stance in support of Iraq at the time. I just did not know the extent of that alleged ‘hate.’

It was in a cheap hotel in Cairo, where I slowly ran out of the few Egyptian pounds at my disposal, that I met Hajah Zainab, a kindly, old custodian who treated me like a son. She looked unwell, wobbled as she walked, and leaned against walls to catch her breath before carrying on with her endless chores. The once carefully-designed tattoos on her face, became a jumble of wrinkled ink that defaced her skin. Still, the gentleness in her eyes prevailed, and whenever she saw me she hugged me and cried.

Hajah Zainab wept for two reasons: taking pity on me as I was fighting a deportation order in Cairo – for no other reason than the fact that I was a Palestinian at a time that Arafat endorsed Saddam Hussein while Hosni Mubarak chose to ally with the US. I grew desperate and dreaded the possibility of facing the Israeli intelligence, Shin Bet, who were likely to summon me to their offices once I crossed the border back to Gaza. The other reason is that Hajah Zainab’s only son, Ahmad, had died fighting the Israelis in Sinai.

Zainab’s generation perceived Egypt’s wars with Israel, that of 1948, 1956 and 1967 as wars in which Palestine was a central cause. No amount of self-serving politics and media conditioning could have changed that. But the war of 1967 was that of unmitigated defeat. With direct, massive support from the US and other western powers, Arab armies were soundly beaten, routed at three different fronts. Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were lost, along with the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and Sinai, as well.

It was then that some Arab countries’ relations with Palestine began changing. Israel’s victory and the US-West’s unremitting support convinced some Arab governments to downgrade their expectations, and expected the Palestinians to do so, as well. Egypt, once the torch-bearer of Arab nationalism, succumbed to a collective sense of humiliation and, later, redefined its priorities to free its own land from Israeli Occupation. Without the pivotal Egyptian leadership, Arab countries were divided into camps, each government with its own agenda. As Palestine, all of it, was then under Israeli control, Arabs slowly walked away from a cause they once perceived to be the central cause of the Arab nation.

The 1967 war also brought an end to the dilemma of independent Palestinian action, which was almost entirely hijacked by various Arab countries. Moreover, the war shifted the focus to the West Bank and Gaza, and allowed the Palestinian faction, Fatah, to fortify its position in light of Arab defeat and subsequent division.

That division was highlighted most starkly in the August 1967 Khartoum summit, where Arab leaders clashed over priorities and definitions. Should Israel’s territorial gains redefine the status quo? Should Arabs focus on returning to a pre-1967 situation or that of pre-1948, when historic Palestine was first occupied and Palestinians ethnically cleansed?

The United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 242, on November 22 1967, reflecting the US Johnson Administration’s wish to capitalise on the new status quo: Israeli withdrawal “from occupied territories” in exchange for normalisation with Israel.  The new language of the immediate post-1967 period alarmed Palestinians who realised that any future political settlement was likely to ignore the situation that existed prior to the war.

Eventually, Egypt fought and celebrated its victory of the 1973 war, which allowed it to consolidate its control over most of its lost territories. A few years later, the Camp David accords in 1979 divided the ranks of the Arabs even more and ended Egypt’s official solidarity with the Palestinians, while granting the most populous Arab state a conditioned control over its own land in Sinai. The negative repercussions of that agreement cannot be overstated. However, the Egyptian people, despite the passing of time, have never truly normalized with Israel.

In Egypt, a chasm still exists between the government, whose behavior is based on political urgency and self-preservation, and a people who, despite a decided anti-Palestinian campaign in various media, are as ever determined to reject normalization with Israel until Palestine is free. Unlike the well-financed media circus that has demonized Gaza in recent years, the likes of Hajah Zainab have very few platforms where they can openly express their solidarity with the Palestinians. In my case, I was lucky enough to run into the aging custodian who cried for Palestine and her only son all those years ago.

Nevertheless, that very character, Zainab, was reincarnated in my path of travel, time and again. I met her in Iraq in 1999. She was an old vegetable vendor living in Sadr City. I met her in Jordan in 2003. She was a cabby, with a Palestinian flag hanging from his cracked rearview mirror. She was also a retired Saudi journalist I met in Jeddah in 2010, and a Moroccan student I met at a speaking tour in Paris in 2013. She was in her early twenties. After my talk, she sobbed as she told me that Palestine for her people is like a festering wound. “I pray for a free Palestine every day,” she told me, “as my late parents did with every prayer.”

Hajah Zainab is also Algeria, all of Algeria. When the Palestinian national football team met their Algerian counterparts last February, a strange, unprecedented phenomenon transpired that left many puzzled. The Algerian fans, some of the most ardent lovers of football anywhere, cheered for the Palestinians, non-stop. And when the Palestinian team scored a goal, it was if the bleachers were lit on fire. The crowded stadium exploded with a trancing chant for Palestine and Palestine alone.

So, did the Arabs betray Palestine? The question is heard often, and it is often followed with the affirmative, ‘yes, they did.’ The Egyptian media scapegoating of Palestinians in Gaza, the targeting and starving of Palestinians in Yarmouk, Syria, the past civil war in Lebanon, the mistreatment of Palestinians in Kuwait in 1991 and, later, in Iraq in 2003 are often cited as examples. Now some insist that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was the last nail in the coffin of Arab solidarity with Palestine.

I beg to differ. The outcome of the ill-fated ‘Arab Spring’ was a massive letdown, if not betrayal, not just of Palestinians but of most Arabs. The Arab world has turned into a massive ground for dirty politics between old and new rivals. While Palestinians were victimised, Syrians, Egyptians, Libyans, Yemenis and others are being victimised, as well.

There has to be a clear political demarcation of the word ‘Arabs.’ Arabs can be unelected governments as much as they can be a kindly old woman earning two dollars a day in some dirty Cairo hotel. Arabs are emboldened elites who care only about their own privilege and wealth while neither Palestine nor their own nations matter, but also multitudes of peoples, diverse, unique, empowered, oppressed, who happen at this point in history to be consumed with their own survival and fight for freedom.

The latter ‘Arabs’ never betrayed Palestine; they willingly fought and died for it when they had the chance.

Most likely, Hajah Zainab is long dead now. But millions more like her still exist and they, too, long for a free Palestine, as they continue to seek their own freedom and salvation.

(Source / 26.04.2016)

Are Syria’s Alawites turning their backs on Assad?

A billboard sponsored by Latakia’s Chamber of Commerce shows pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his late father, former President Hafez al-Assad, in the coastal city of Latakia, the provincial capital of the heartland of the Alawite sect, March 17, 2016

Earlier this month, The Telegraph news daily and the BBC website published excerpts from a document they said was prepared by religious Alawite leaders claiming the sect is dissociating itself from the Syrian regime and from President Bashar al-Assad, himself an Alawite. Al-Monitor perused the main text of the document, “The Alawites in Syrian Society: Loud Silence in a Declaration of Identity Reform,” which is thought to have been issued by undisclosed Alawite notables.

The 12-page document consists of an introduction and three chapters: The Alawites, The Alawites and Syria, and The Alawites and God. It is written in Arabic as a religious philosophical abstract, using complicated language including terms referring to advanced modernism concepts.

The document was criticized, especially by opponents of the Syrian regime, for not being signed and dated and for including several grammatical and spelling mistakes, all of which challenges its credibility, they said. Nevertheless, the Western media gave it political dimensions that it did not initially have regarding the Alawite sect’s disassociation from the regime and the Assad family.

According to The Telegraph article, the document “was smuggled out of the country amid extreme secrecy and shown to The Sunday Telegraph and a handful of other European journalists.”

“The authors, acting anonymously out of fear for their security once back in the country, said they had been forced to act because of the extreme danger the sect was now facing,” the newspaper said.

BBC News religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt wrote that the authors of the document claim it is supported by 25% of those representing Alawites.

However, Sheikh Ahmad Bilal, an official representative of the clergy of Syrian Alawites and director of the Syrian Institute of Theology, denied in an exclusive statement April 6 to Sputnik News that the document was issued on the part of Alawite clerics. He suggested the document was falsified and part of a “media war on Syria.”

Perhaps what provoked the Alawite supporters of the Syrian regime is what Wyatt reported in her article. “Those behind the document said that they hoped it would ‘liberate’ the Alawite community, who made up around 12% of Syria’s pre-war population of 24 million, and that their declaration of identity would cut the link or ‘umbilical cord’ between the Alawites and the Assad regime.”

She also stated, “The Alawites, they pointed out, existed before the Assad regime ‘and will exist after it.’”

Bilal said, “This is completely untrue. We view the state as an institution that embraces all spectra of this people. We see President Bashar al-Assad as a symbol of Arab nationalism.”

However, according to the Telegraph article, the Alawite sheikhs from among the authors of the document said they are not calling on Assad to step down, and some favor him staying.

The article also indicated that the sheikhs said they wanted to “forge a new relationship with Syria’s Sunni majority and had reached out to its religious representatives — though they would not identify who.”

Syrian religious researcher Ahmad Adib Ahmad, an Alawite professor at Damascus University, told Al-Monitor, “Any real document must be attributed to a real, known person, not an anonymous one.”

The document indicates that Alawi Islam is not a branch of Shiism but a third model of Islam, within the Irfan order. It added that the Alawite school had emerged in the tenth century and its name is contemporary. But Ahmad said, “This information is unfounded because Alawites are Muslims who are truly committed to Islam and who have acknowledged the Wilayat of Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful.”

“This document is a farce and does not represent the Alawites who are defenders of Syria and the righteous issues in the country. Our approach is that of the eternal leader [former President] Hafez al-Assad and that of the steadfast leader Bashar al-Assad,” he added. The late Hafez al-Assad was Bashar al-Assad’s father.

A US-based academic who specializes in Syrian affairs told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The document is real, and there are secular elites and Alawite clerics behind it. They confirm the independence of their sect by declaring it with transparency. They are calling for a mutual forgiveness with the Sunnis. They have forgiven the fatwas — issued byIbn Taymiyyah and his successors [in 1263-1328] in Damascus, which viewed the Alawites as infidels and persecuted them — provided that the Sunnis forgive the Alawite authority’s violence over the past four decades. These Alawites are distinguishing themselves from the regime, without opposing it.”

A Syrian Alawite journalist residing in Latakia told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that he does not know who is behind the document and that the signatories’ names were not leaked. He explained that the document does not reflect a particular inclination within the Alawite community. “Due to the repercussions of the war, no one needs to be involved in doctrinal debates,” he said.

“Since the issuers of the document did not reveal their identities, they have no power to determine a sect’s identity,” he added. “Yet the document may as well be a dream of a person or a group of persons who intended to leak it to feel the pulse of the Alawite public. The public turned out to be preoccupied and made no reaction to the document, which has only reached the elite.”

On whether the Alawite community feels it is different from Shiites at the religious level or resents being viewed as Shiites, the Syrian journalist said that ties between the Alawites and the Shiites were mended in the 1950s by prominent Alawite religious authority Allamah Suleiman Al-Ahmad. Ahmad made great strides in bringing the two parties closer together, although he could not reconcile all their differences, and so some “contradiction remained and is reflected in the doctrinal and political relations.”

The Syrian journalist added, “If the document aimed to cause a rift between the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and Iran, it would be a naive attempt, since on the ground these parties face a common existential challenge. They are fighting by each other’s side, setting aside their ideological differences. This confirms that the relation between them is purely political and that ideology has nothing to do with it. Otherwise, the ideological differences between the Shiites and Alawites are not less important than the ideological differences between the Shiites and the Sunnis.”

Yet does the document address the Alawite masses, since it is announcing on their behalf an identity reform and declaring them as an independent sect, which has historically been mysterious? Does it call for stopping all manifestations of religious prudence imposed by the historical persecution they had faced, abandoning their inclination to isolate themselves and invoke with exaggeration the affliction they had endured? Does it address the Sunnis, who make up the majority of the Syrian people, and the greater part of the opposition against whom they are fighting a fierce civil war? Does it address the West and the international community sponsoring a political settlement in the Geneva talks?

Indeed, it does not appear to be addressing the Alawite or Sunni masses; otherwise, it would have been drafted in a simple political and religious language. It seems to be addressed to the West in particular, since it was leaked first to two British media outlets and included political concepts that were very liberal and progressive, acknowledges the values of democracy and secularism, confirms the Alawite community’s independence from Shiism and political Islam, and calls for a regime based on the principles of citizenship, equality, freedom and religious tolerance. It rejects Islam as the state religion and source of legislation, instead acknowledging Islam, as well as Christianity, to be a source of values and principles.

What remains to be seen is why this document was issued now, at the moment when the Syrian state is being restructured, amid calls for a federal regime and concerns of division into several small states. Does this document reveal the desire of an elite group to form an independent region, like the Kurds, or to have an independent state, as was the case during the Alawite State between 1920 and 1936?

(Source / 26.04.2016)