Hamas: Elections commission can reopen Gaza offices ‘anytime’

A security officer casts his vote in parliamentary elections in Gaza City on Jan. 21 2006.
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas on Monday rejected criticism that it had failed to open the Central Election Commission’s headquarters in Gaza.

CEC chairman Hanna Nasir said Monday that the Hamas-run government had not reopened elections offices in the Gaza Strip despite pledging to do so two weeks ago.

The Interior Ministry in Gaza responded in a statement that no official had visited the office.

“The CEC can open its headquarters anytime,” the Hamas-run ministry said.

The West Bank and Gaza have been divided under separate governments since 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza.

Hamas won the last elections, which were held in 2006, but the party’s rivalry with Fatah has paralyzed legislative and electoral processes and a new vote is overdue. Electoral records in the Gaza Strip have not been updated since 2006.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last May and agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections within one year, a pledge party leaders reiterated in November.

Factions also agreed to form a joint government of technocrats to oversee the vote, but Hamas and Fatah spared over who should lead the administration and it has yet to established.

(www.maannews.net / 23.01.2012)

Israel detains 2 more lawmakers

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Monday detained two Palestinian MPs during a raid on the Jerusalem headquarters of the International Red Cross.

Mohammad Tawtah and former Jerusalem affairs’ minister Khalid Abu Arafa are being questioned by Israeli police on suspicion of conducting “Hamas activities inside Jerusalem,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an.

The elected officials took refuge at the Red Cross building in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah in July 2010 along with lawmaker Ahmad Attoun after Israel revoked their residency permits.

Attoun was detained at the ICRC office in September by paramilitary police disguised as Palestinians, a security guard at the building said.

The ICRC said Tawtah and Abu Arafa were arrested inside its premises, and said a relative of one of the men was also detained in a statement Monday.

The ICRC has said it told Israeli authorities that international humanitarian law prohibited the forcible transfer of Palestinian residents from their homes, for whatever reason.

The organization also said it had informed Hamas members in its compound that ICRC premises had no special status and it could not prevent police entering to arrest them.

At the ICRC compound, a crowd of Palestinians smashed its gate to protest against what they saw as the failure of the organization to protect the MPs. Hamas noted the two men were legislators and should enjoy immunity from arrest.

The arrests of Tawtah and Abu Arafa came days after Israeli forces detained two MPs in the West Bank, including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament Aziz Dweik, bringing the number of lawmakers in Israeli detention to 27.

On Monday, lawmakers protested Dweik’s arrest in Ramallah and urged international parliaments to intervene.

“The speaker of the Legislative Council, Dr. Aziz Dweik, has been kidnapped for the second time — in a terrorist way — by these gangs that are controlling this occupied country,” PLC member Ahmad Mubarak said.

Dweik faced an Israeli military court on Sunday but the trial was postponed.

“Because we decided re-open the legislative council meetings sessions. They do not want me to open the session of the council meeting,” Dweik told reporters in Ofer military court.

All four lawmakers detained in the last week are affiliated to Hamas, and the movement accused Israel of trying to thwart the party’s reconciliation with Fatah.

The Palestinian parliament has been inactive since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary elections.

The parties signed a reconciliation agreement in May 2011 but it has yet to be implemented.

(www.maannews.net / 23.01.2012)

Hebron`s diminishing factory life

Artistic glass products, hand-made ceramics and Palestine’s one and only producer of the Keffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian scarf, Hebron’s factory district used to be flourishing.

Times have changed, however, amid an increase in settler violence, the economic crisis and a flood of cheaper-made Chinese products. The city’s old, family-run factories are struggling to survive.

Here’s a look into the secret life of the Hebron manufacturing district’s graffiti-sprayed walls, ever-struggling businesses and the beauty of the unique products still being made.

(www.maannews.net / 23.01.2012)

Future Society for Culture and Development

Message Assembly

 Founded the Future Society for Culture and Development in 2005 by a group of young men and women who believe in the role and function of institutions of civil work in building social capital in the governorates of the Gaza Strip in general and Rafah in particular. Society is the future of culture and development to empower women and young men and women and help them to develop themselves and their families and their communities. Society is the future of culture and development to assist women and young men and women to fight poverty and bring about sustainable development.

Philosophy of the institution:

We believe we are in the Future Society that women and young men and women are an indispensable part in social life and economic and political situation in the Palestinian society and to enable them to achieve their full potential, working to help them through a program of gender equality women’s empowerment is through the basic skills essential for work and life and through program to aid poor families

Goals of the institution:

provide relief for young men and women and their families

providing social care for young people and encourage them prominent in the limits of the possibilities and work to help students and encourage them to education and training, combating illiteracy and social backwardness by all means available to establish the content of Islamic education and have a national university graduates.

Promoting the cultural level and education through training courses and professional women, children and the Palestinian youth of both sexes.

Draft peace, O young:

harity is one of the big projects on the national level and has contributed to this project in bringing a smile to the mouths of many of them children, the Palestinians and the project is within the General an extension of the project for more greatmore……….

Workshop partisanship

 Is the militancy of the party or group and take the matter seriously and with non-acceptance of violence are contrary to the opinion and rejected. It also means the love and support of the party or group, whether they were right or wrong.  ……….more

(www.future.org.ps / 22.01.2012)

Buoyed by ‘Islamic Spring,’ Hamas considers new direction

Hamas’ political chief Khaled Meshal is stepping down as the militant Palestinian group faces a regional moment of change.


Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal, who is stepping down.

Hamas’ political chief is stepping down after nearly 16 years, leaving the militant Palestinian group with a potential leadership battle just as Islamist allies elsewhere in the Middle East are enjoying momentum from election victories.

Related stories
  • Khaled Meshal, who headed Hamas’ headquarters inDamascus, recently informed the group’s leadership council that he won’t stand for reelection, said a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza. It is unclear exactly why Mr. Meshal is choosing to step aside and who is likely to succeed him.

Recent upheaval in the Middle East has been a mixed bag for Hamas. On the one hand, it has empowered groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which controls nearly half of the new parliament, prompting Hamas leaders to boast about an “Islamic Spring” and emboldening backers in the West Bank. But the very same regional changes have cast it adrift from its headquarters in Syria and prompted Meshal to suggest non-militarized confrontation with Israel, to the chagrin of some in the movement.

The outcome of the Hamas leadership change could impact relations with Israel and the US, which consider it a terrorist group, and the rest of the international community.

“It is important to see whether this vacuum will be filled by the moderates or a hawk, because this will affect the future of Hamas and Palestinian politics,” says Mohammed Dejani, a political science professor at Al Quds University who believes the Muslim Brotherhood victory will force Hamas to mellow.

Islamic Spring misread?

“People are misreading the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunis. It is an Islamic Spring, but it’s not an Islamic Spring Hamas thinks about. There has been a religious revival, but in a sense of moderation and not in a sense of religious fundamentalism.”

Meshal was once considered more of a hard-liner compared to Hamas’ leaders in the Gaza Strip. However, talk of a shift away from military action and accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have made him look like a pragmatist. He has also been spearheading efforts toward reconciliation with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, which support talks with Israel and reject military confrontation.

He had ample reason for the apparent shift. In recent months Hamas started moving staff and families out of Damascus because of the fighting in Syria. Observers believe that Hamas is seeking to open a headquarters in Egypt, and wants to signal that it has the potential to recast itself as more moderate.

Speculation about Mr. Meshal’s departure ranged from losing a power struggle with rivals from the Gaza Strip to a desire to go along with regional trends toward democracy and regime change.

That said, few expect that Hamas’ evolution will be as far reaching as recognizing Israel and approving peace talks. That would risk making the organization look like President Abbas’ Fatah party, which is faulted by Palestinians for failing to win independence though negotiations.

Hard-liners astonished

Even with the current signs of change, Hamas risks alienating its foot soldiers in the Gaza Strip with conciliatory moves. Meshal raised eyebrows with his comments on non-militarized grassroots resistance in a December interview with The Associated Press in which he said that grassroots “popular” protests have the “power of a tsunami.”

“Armed resistance is the only way to liberate Palestine, all of Palestine. Seriously, I was astonished when I heard” Mr. Meshal’s comment, said Abu Hassan, a member of the Al Qassam military wing in the Gaza Strip. “I really don’t know what is wrong with Hamas…. Many Hamas Qassam commanders will oppose this idea.”

Despite the struggles with ideology, Hamas leaders believe that the winds of regional change are at their back as the spread of elections empowers political Islam. They see parallels to their own history: Hamas rose to political prominence among the Palestinians in democratic elections six years ago, capturing a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament by channeling popular fatigue with an old guard who were willing to deal with the West.

The recent elections in Egypt gave the Muslim Brotherhood nearly half the seats in the next parliament there, a democratic mandate that is likely to translate into a much more friendly environment for Hamas there compared to the open enmity of former President Hosni Mubarak.

“We as Palestinians paid the price for the Arab dictatorship,” says Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson in the Gaza Strip. “We believe that this result of the democratic process might mean full support for Palestinian rights and interest, now that [Arab governments’] hearts are with the people.”

A Palestinian poll last month found that the approval rating of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip rose 7 percentage points to 41 percent from three months earlier. That said, the Islamic militant party still polls second to the secular Fatah party when Palestinians ask about their electoral preferences.

Elections coming soon

The improved public standing of Hamas has given a push to talks aimed at ending a four-and-a-half-year rift with Fatah. Hamas and Fatah have agreed in principle to holding elections in May of this year, and the sides are discussing confidence building measures like a prisoner release. Still, there’s been little progress on implementation.

Hamas legislator Bassem Zarir contends that the success of Islamic parties elsewhere have given Hamas new international prestige. He claims that European diplomats have sought him out for the first time to pick his brain about Hamas’ links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We are stronger than at any other time,” he boasts.

That sense of momentum has filtered down to the streets of the West Bank, where small groups of Hamas supporters have organized demonstrations calling for the release of Islamists in PA prisons.

A year ago Hamas supporters wouldn’t have dared to hold a public protest in the West Bank for fear of arrest by the Palestinian Authority, dominated by the rival Fatah party. But on a recent day, a group of about two dozen Islamist women – wearing green sashes and their faces covered – protested in the central square of Hebron to accuse the PA of holding political prisoners.

“Our feeling is that what is going on in the Arab Spring is in our favor,” says Lama Khater, a 34-year old Islamist journalist who comes out to weekly demonstrations. “It has pushed us to come out.”

A balancing act

That said, the protest turnout at the Hebron city square was modest, a sobering sign that most Islamist backers still fear of a crackdown by the Palestinian Authority security services.

Whether or not political Islam is able to continue to gain momentum among Palestinians may depend on a balancing act between Mehsal’s new efforts at moderation and reaffirming its long held hard-line ideology that sets it apart from Abbas and Fatah.

“We haven’t reached [Fatah’s] level,” says legislator Zarir. “We appreciate this flexibility and are happy about it … as long as it doesn’t infringe on our basic principles.”

(www.csmonitor.com / 22.01.2012)

A new BDS victory: Lara Fabian’s Lebanon concert boycotted

Lara Fabian, a Belgian-Italian singer, is a friend of ‘Israel’, and makes no secret of it. In May 2008 she performed at a special concert in France to commemorate the creation of the Zionist state, ending off her performance with ‘I love you, Israel’. The show was directed by her Jewish French partner Gerard Pullicino. In March 2010, she held a concert in Tel Aviv, and in June 2011 she participated in the ‘Cercle Ben Gourion’ festival in Brussels.

Despite her obvious warm feelings toward the racist and belligerent Zionist colonial state, she planned to perform on February 14 and 15 at the Casino du Liban in Jounieh. Having performed in Lebanon twice before, she never saw the massive boycott campaign coming:  the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon fiercely opposed her performance, until she announced on January 19th on her Facebook page that she had cancelled the concert.

This BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) victory is quite significant. It sends a strong message to artists who choose to ignore the massive injustices perpetrated by the state of ‘Israel’, not only against the Palestinians, but also against its neighbouring countries and against ethnic minorities who make a living in the self-proclaimed ‘Land of the Chosen’.

No more tolerance for racism

It is unfathomable that in 2012, a state that grants racial exclusivity to anyone who is considered to be genetically connected to the historical tribe of the ‘Israelites’, is still tolerated in the international community. After all, it is no longer unkown to the citizens of today’s world, that the land of Palestine was expropriated by Zionist invaders from Europe, who expelled the Palestinians in 1948 at gunpoint in order to create an exclusivist state for Jews.

But things are changing, and this is why Lara Fabian’s cancellation is significant. More and more, and worldwide, those who choose to cosy up to the racist ideology of Zionism, and celebrate the expulsion and oppression of the Palestinians together with the Israelis, are made to pay a price. Citizens and artists of conscience have made it an issue to exert pressure upon those who support the Apartheid state to learn the lessons from the successful cultural and economical boycott efforts against the South African Apartheid regime in the 1980’s, which helped bring down that systematic injustice. It is high time for occupied Palestine to also be relieved from the yoke of Zionist racism, and the number of people dedicating their energy to making this happen, is growing from day to day.

Lebanon resists

In 2006, ‘Israel’ unleashed an atrocious attack on Lebanon, killing at least 1200 people, overwhelmingly citizens. Apparently, there are many people in Lebanon who still rightfully feel that being a declared ‘friend of Israel’ is not compatible with being a welcomed guest in Lebanon. This attitude does not only exist at a popular level, but spills over into positions taken by political parties. For example, on December 13, several political parties among which the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and Amal signed a joint statement calling for the boycott of “all concerts, companies and troops supporting the Zionist enemy.”

As’ad Ghsoub, spokesman for the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, makes it very clear that this has nothing to do with ‘cultural censorship’. As he told NOW Lebanon:  “Israel is a state that is an enemy of Lebanon, and we are in a state of war … can you imagine a pro-Hezbollah superstar singing in Tel Aviv?”

World-wide campaign

The Musical Intifada follows and supports all anti-normalization and BDS efforts, as becomes clear from the various articles on the subject that have been published here. It is clear that the cultural boycott of ‘Israel’ is starting to catch on, and to reverberate far beyond the region of the Middle East. The list of artists from the West that refuse to perform in ‘Israel’ is growing, and we applaud their moral courage. They set an example for all peace-loving musicians in the world, and their courage is admired and emulated by an ever-increasing circle of performers.
It is time that artists like Lara Fabian understand that even as a musician, there is a time when one has to make moral choices. Declaring ones admiration and support for the creation of a racist and belligerent state is not compatible with the words of her own Facebook statement of the concert’s cancellation: “I believe in tolerance, generosity and truth”. If you really do, Lara, then why do you admire, love and support the Nazi-like fascist state of ‘Israel’?

As far as As’ad Ghsoub is concerned, all is not lost yet. “She should reconsider her actions and join this global movement that many artists are joining. If she makes a statement at least distancing herself from Israel, we have no problem welcoming her next time. We’ll throw a red carpet down for her.”

Lara Fabian is not the first, and will not be the last artist to receive these lessons in true equality and tolerance. Anti-normalization with ‘Israel’ will continue, hand in hand with BDS-efforts, and those who wish to help create a world where racism is not tolerated, will definitely support these campaigns. The tide is rising. Get your surfboards, and ride the wave!

(www.docjazz.com / 22.01.2012)

Wie is Yusuf Estes?

Sheikh Yusuf Estes werd geboren in het Midden-Westen van de Verenigde Staten in 1944. Hij groeide op in een religieuze christelijke familie. Samen met zijn familie verhuisde hij in 1949 naar Houston, Texas waar hij in 1956 werd gedoopt. Hij studeerde muziek en werd uiteindelijk muziekleraar, muzikant en zakenman. Hij ging door middel van zijn muziek zijn religie verkondigen.

Tijdens zijn zakelijke carrière bouwde hij een keten van muziekwinkels en had hij zelfs zijn eigen tv-serie de “Estes Music Jamboree”. Yusuf Estes werd een succesvol zakenman maar toch bleef hij opzoek naar God.

Zijn eerste ontmoeting met een moslim was in 1991, toen zijn vader hem voorstelde aan een man uit Egypte. Toen hij ontdekte dat de man moslim was begon hij onmiddellijk hem over te halen om in Jezus en de kerk te geloven. Echter, de moslim gaf hem een nieuw beeld van de snelst groeiende religie, de Islam. Hoewel Yusuf trachtte de moslim tot het christendom te bekeren leerde hij veel van het Islamitische geloof. Na drie maanden van debatten en dialogen met de Egyptische moslim aanvaarde hij de Islam en werd hij in de buurt van Dallas, Texas moslim. Toen bekeerden ook zijn vader, zijn vrouw en zijn kinderen tot de Islam.

Sindsdien heeft hij de Islam, de Koran en het Arabisch uitgebreid bestudeerde en probeert hij de juiste boodschap van de Islam te verspreiden aan zowel moslims als niet-moslims. Hij heeft in Amerikaanse gevangenissen als geestelijk raadsman gewerkt tot aan zijn pensionering en is als moslim gedelegeerde bij de Verenigde Naties Wereld vrede tot voor religieuze leiders geweest.

Hij is auteur van diverse boeken en beheerd verschillende bekende Engelstalige websites. Hij is bekend geworden door zijn eenvoudige en humoristische manier van uitleggen van de meest onbegrepen religie in de wereld, namelijk de Islam.

Tegenwoordig is hij veelvuldig te zien op televisiezender Peace TV waar hij een eigen kinderprogramma heeft waar hij de verhalen van de profeten op een speelse manier vertelt.

Ga voor meer informatie naar www.yusufestes.com of naar www.watchislam.com om de uitzending van Peace TV te kunnen bekijken.

(www.yusufestes.nl / 22.01.2012)

Abbas: Israel document ‘worthless’ to talks

President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev as they meet at the Gorki presidential residence outside Moscow on Jan. 20, 2012.
MOSCOW (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that Israel’s response to a Palestinian proposal on borders and security as requested by Quartet negotiators was “worthless”.

Speaking to TV channel Russia Today during his the final leg of his European tour, Abbas said his visit to British, German and Russian leaders was not intended to “isolate or delegitimize Israel,” but to look at different routes if current talks between negotiators fail.

“We want to live side-by-side with Israel, but we want to isolate Israeli policy on settlements,” he told the program.

Palestinian and Israeli officials are set to meet in the Jordanian capital Wednesday, the fourth round of talks since Jan. 3. The international Quartet called for both sides to state their positions on the borders and security arrangements of a future “two-state solution” by Jan. 26, to help open the door to a resumption of full negotiations.

But Palestinian officials insist they cannot return to talks while Israel continues building Jewish-only settlements on lands needed for a viable Palestinian state.

PLO delegates say they handed their proposal to the Israeli side, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had returned a “21-point document that anyone would agree to.”

“We negotiate about two issues, borders and security, so what are the 21 cases?” Abbas told Russia Today on Sunday.

“This is absurd and worthless … these are codes that no one would understand. He said I am providing you with something, but what did he provide me with?”

Abbas called on the US not to veto attempts to stop Israel expanding settlements, after it nixed a UN resolution on settlement building in February 2011.

“We respect the US and we have a good relationship with it … however we feel that when it comes to this issue, the US is biased towards Israel,” the president said.

Abbas also slammed Israel’s detention of top Palestinian lawmaker Aziz Dweik on Friday.

“I don’t believe Dweik committed a crime deserving punishment… I say out loud his detention is illegitimate.”

Abbas arrived in Russia on Thursday, where he has met with religious leaders and President Dmitri Medvedev, anouncing that he will name a street in the West Bank city of Jericho after the Russian president.

(www.maannews.net / 22.01.2012)

The Week In Photos 16.1. – 22.1. 2012

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal ‘set to run for PLO role’

Having stepped down as Hamas party chairman after 16 years at the movement’s helm, Khaled Meshaal looks set to run for a senior position in the PLO in the forthcoming Palestinian elections.

Hamas considers whether to pull leadership out of Syria

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal
The Hamas leader, currently living in exile in Damascus, announced in a statement on Saturday that he does not want to stand for re-election later this year.

While senior Hamas officials quoted in the Israeli media blame the surprise resignation on a rift between Mr Meshaal and the party leadership in Gaza, analysts suggest he has withdrawn from Hamas in order to pursue a bigger political goal.

“He will not sit aside idly – he has other targets for himself,” says Dr Samir Awwad, professor of international relations at Birzeit University.

“As negotiations between Fatah and Hamas gain momentum, it is possible that Meshaal is considering the possibility of occupying the seat of President of the PLO executive. He will compete for that.”

Last month in Cairo, militant group Hamas agreed to form a unified Palestinian government with rival faction Fatah but stopped short of signing up to the PLO charter, which would require its members to lay down arms.

Without signing this charter, a Hamas leader cannot claim a senior PLO role.

Whatever his longer term intentions, Mr Meshaal has provided Hamas with strong, popular leadership and there is a fear among members that his withdrawal could lead to factional splintering within the movement.

Apparently aiming to stem this threat, Ismail Haniya, Hamas prime minister, has taken steps to consolidate ties with potential opposition groups. Hamas announced on Saturday that it intends to merge with hard line militant group Islamic Jihad.

While Hamas has officially asked Mr Meshaal to reconsider his decision, several candidates have already emerged to vie for his seat, including Mr Haniya.

Mr Meshaal’s deputy Musa Abu Marzouk is the outgoing chairman’s choice successor. Mr Marzouk, a moderate figure, has gained respect and popularity in recent months having led the factional negotiations in Cairo. Dr Awwad expects he will win the role: “Under his leadership, we would expect a further boost to the reconciliation process but we would not see major changes in the party. His policies are much the same [as Mr Meshaal’s].”

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 22.01.2012)