Why Ramadan, Why Fasting?

Ramadan is a season of worshipping peculiar to one month every year in which we are ordered to perform fasting, which is one of the pillars of Islam. Fasting is a kind of worship that has many benefits like making us notice that we are slaves, understanding the value of the bounties, educating our souls, understanding the state of the needy people in the community and being a means of diet for the body. We will evaluate some of those benefits in items:

 

1.       Fasting in Terms of Noticing the Bounties

 

God Almighty created the earth in the form of a table containing limitless bounties. He surrounded man, who is the most valuable guest in the universe, with the bounties that He created in this table and presented him bounties “from sources he never could imagine”[1].

The honeybee, which is a poisonous insect, makes honey that is much more than it needs for the benefit of man acting upon the revelation of Allah; the silkworm, which has no hands, eats leaves and weaves silk for man acting upon the revelation of Allah. Allah put all of the realm of the beings under the service of man so that we will understand his providing sustenance and lordship.

However, man cannot usually notice those bounties of Allah since he is heedless and since causes function as veils; he can think that things take place based on causes without associating them with Allah.

In Ramadan, all Muslims wait for the order,“Help yourselves!..” until the evening like guests that have been invited to the feast of their Sustainer. While waiting, they avoid eating, drinking and sexual intercourse, virtually acting like angels. Thus, they have the opportunity to notice the bounties that we have mentioned above and to understand how valuable they are, and they try to fulfill their duty of thanking. The whole earth virtually eats and drinks together like an army, worshipping universally.

I wonder if those who prefer eating and drinking like animals in this lofty season of worshipping instead of spending time worshipping like angels deserve to be called humans.

 

2.       Fasting in Terms of Fulfilling the Duty of Thanking for the Bounties

 

One of the wisdoms behind fasting in Ramadan is that it is a means of understanding the value of the bounties and thanking for them.

Bounties reach us through various ways. For instance, let us think how an apple reaches us. An apple goes through various means like the person who grows and picks it, the person who sells it, etc before it reaches us.

We usually think that bounties are given to us by those agents and we do not see God Almighty, the real owner of those bounties. Instead of thanking God Almighty, the one that really deserves thanking, we thank the person who gives us the apple.

In fact, the whole universe was made work for that apple because the sun is necessary, the world has to rotate, the wind has to blow and the clouds have to work for the production of that apple. A lifeless seed that enters the lifeless, colorless, tasteless and odorless soil turns to a living plant and yields sweet aromatic fruits. That is, these unconscious creatures show us God Almighty, who has knowledge, will and power, in the background by acting like conscious beings.

The state of a person who does not see the real owner of the bounties in the bounties that are sent to him through various means can be understood better through the following example:

Suppose that a sultan sent you some presents through an envoy. If you thank the envoy that gives you the presents and do not heed and think about the sultan at all, it will be a wrong act.

All of the means that bring the bounties to us are like that envoy. The real owner of the bounties is God Almighty. He wants us to thank Him in return for the bounties He gives us. To thank Him means to know that the bounties come from Him, to appreciate those bounties and to need those bounties.

Fasting in Ramadan is the key to a real and sincere thanking because under normal conditions people do not feel the real hunger if there is not an obligation. Therefore, the value of the bounties is not understood if one is not hungry. Those whose stomachs are full and especially if they are rich, do not understand the degree of bounty there is in a piece of dry bread .

At the time of iftar, that piece of dry bread is a very valuable divine bounty in the eye of a Muslim and its taste is appreciated. Everybody, from the sultan to a very poor person, thanks God spiritually by understanding the value of those bounties in Ramadan.

Since eating is prohibited during the day, they will say,“Those bounties do not belong to me. I am not free to eat them, for they are another’s property and gift. I await His command.”, appreciating the bounty and thanking.

Thus, fasting is in many respects is like a key to gratitude, which is man’s fundamental duty.

 

3.       Benefits of Fasting in Terms of Social Life

 

One of the wisdoms behind the order of fasting is that it helps different layers of the community to understand the lifestyles of one another better.

Human beings have different livelihoods. Some of them are rich whereas some lead a poor life. As a consequence of the difference, God Almighty invites the rich to assist the poor through zakah and sadaqah. In fact, under normal conditions, the rich cannot truly understand the pains and hunger that the poor suffer. They can feel it only by fasting. If there were no fasting, there would be many self-indulgent rich people unable to perceive just how grievous hunger and poverty are and how needy of compassion those who suffer them are.

Compassion for one’s fellow men is an essential of true thankfulness. Everybody can find someone poorer than himself in some respect; he is enjoined to be compassionate toward that person. If he were not himself compelled to suffer hunger, he would be unable give the person, by means of compassion, the help and assistance that he is obliged to offer. And even if he did, it would be deficient because he would not truly experience the state of hunger himself.

 

4.       Benefits of Fasting in Terms of Training the Soul

 

One of the wisdoms behind the order of fasting is that it is the ideal kind of worship for the training of the soul. The soul regards itself free and wants to act freely. It even thinks it has a kind of lordship. It does not want to admit that it is being sustained and trained through innumerable bounties. Especially if it possesses wealth and power in this world, and if heedlessness blinds it, it will devour God’s bounties like a usurping, thieving animal without thinking about the Creator that gives those bounties.

Thus, in the month of Ramadan, the soul of everyone, from the richest to the poorest, understands that it does not own itself, but is totally owned, that it is not free, but is a slave. It understands that if it receives no command, it is unable to do the simplest and easiest thing; it cannot even stretch out its hand towards water. Its imaginary lordship is therefore shattered; it performs its worship and begins to offer thanks, its true duty.

Besides, fasting in Ramadan strikes direct blows at the soul’s pharaoh-like front, shattering it. It demonstrates its impotence, weakness, and poverty, making it realize that it is a slave.

Among the narrations of Hadith is the following:

“God Almighty said to the soul:

What am I and what are you?

The soul replied: ‘I am myself and You are Yourself.’

Then, He punished it and put it into Hell, then asked it again. Again, it replied: ‘I am myself and You are Yourself.’ No matter how He punished it, it did not give up its egoism.

Finally He punished it with hunger. That is, He left it hungry. Then, He asked it again: ‘Who am I and who are you?

The soul said, ‘You are my Compassionate Sustainer and I am your impotent slave.’[2]

 

5.       Benefits of Fasting in Terms of Making Man Understand His Weakness

 

Fasting has many benefits in terms of making man understand how poor he is when the plenitude of his needs are taken into consideration and that he is too weak to meet those needs. One of those benefits is as follows:

Man may forget himself through heedlessness. He does not see or does not want to see what a weak, poor and erring creature he is. However, man has endless spiritual needs like love and compassion along with his endless material needs like air and water. He can meet very few of those needs himself. He needs rain for water. Man cannot make it rain. If man wants to eat bread it is necessary for the sun to work, the world to rotate and the clouds function, etc. We all know very well that man is too weak to do them.

Man does not think of just how weak he is, and how subject to transience and to disasters he is, nor of the fact that he consists merely of flesh and bones, which quickly decline and are dispersed.  Simply, he assaults the world as though he possessed a body made of steel and imagined himself to be undying and eternal. He hurls himself onto the world with intense greed and voracity and passionate attachment and love. He is captivated by anything that gives him pleasure or that benefits him. Moreover, he forgets his Creator who trains it with compassion, and he does not think of his aim of creation; he does not think of the eternal life; and he wallows in dissipation and misconduct.

Fasting in the month of Ramadan awakens even the most heedless and obstinate to their weakness, impotence, and poverty. By means of hunger, they think of their stomachs; they understand the need therein. They realize how unsound their weak bodies are, and perceive how needy they are for kindness and compassion. So, they abandon the soul’s pharaoh-like despotism, and through recognizing their utter impotence and poverty, perceive a desire to take refuge at the Divine Court. And they prepare themselves to knock at the door of mercy with the hands of thankfulness so long as heedlessness has not destroyed their hearts!

 

6.       Ramadan is the month of the Quran

 

Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed. Fasting was ordered in this blessed month in which the Quran was sent down in order to welcome this divine call in the best way.

In this month, man resembles angels by shunning the lower demands of the soul and trivialities and by abstaining from food and drink. He can read and listen to the Quran as though it was just revealed, listen to the Divine address in it as if it was being revealed that very moment, attaining a lofty state. Some people with lofty spirits can even listen to that address as though hearing it from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), from Jibril, or even from God Almighty Himself, attaining that same holy state. Man can act as an interpreter and convey this divine message to others, spending this time period in accordance with the aim of his creation and with the month in which the Quran was sent down.

In the month of Ramadan, the whole Islamic world becomes like a mosque. In every corner of that mighty mosque, millions of those who know the whole Quran by heart cause the dwellers on the earth to hear the heavenly address. Each Ramadan displays the verse, “It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was bestowed from on high”[3] in a luminous shining manner. It proves that Ramadan is the month of the Quran. Some of the members of the vast congregation listen to the reciters with reverence, while others read it themselves.

Following the appetites of the soul and quitting that luminous condition through eating and drinking in a time period when the whole Islamic world turns the earth to a mighty mosque is truly loathsome, as it is expressed in the following example:

If someone plays a game instead of performing prayers in the mosque and sings a song instead of listening to the Quran, he shows great disrespect; similarly if someone eats and drinks in Ramadan, when the whole Islamic world performs fasting and reads the Quran, he shows great disrespect toward the Quran and those who worship.

 

7.       Ramadan is the Best Time Period for the Hereafter Trade

 

 

Man was sent to this world to cultivate and trade for the hereafter. The month of Ramadan is the most appropriate time period for this trade because the reward for actions in the month of Ramadan is a thousand fold.  Each word of the Quran has ten rewards when it is read and will yield ten fruits in Paradise.[4] In Ramadan, each word bears not ten fruits but a thousand, and verses like Ayat al-Kursi thousands for each word, and on Fridays in Ramadan, it is even more.[5] And on the Night of Power, each word is counted as thirty thousand rewards.[6]

Indeed, the Quran, each of whose words yields thirty thousand eternal fruits, is like a luminous Tree of Tuba that gains for believers in Ramadan millions of those eternal fruits. So, come and look at this sacred, eternal profitable trade, then consider it and understand the infinite loss of those who do not appreciate the value reading the Quran.

The month of Ramadan is an extremely profitable display and market for the trade of the hereafter. It is an extremely fertile piece of land for the crops of the hereafter. For the growth and flourishing of actions, it is like April showers in the spring. This meritorious period of time is like a brilliant holy festival for the parade of the believers’ worship to the other creatures in the universe and their Creator.

Therefore, man was ordered to fast so as not to heedlessly indulge the animal needs of the soul like eating and drinking and not to indulge the appetites lustfully and in trivialities. Thus, it becomes possible for man to be freed from bestial needs and assume the angelic state.

The month of Ramadan comprises and gains a permanent and eternal life in this fleeting world and brief transient life.  Certainly, when it is spent truly, a single Ramadan can produce fruits equal to that of a lifetime of eighty years of worshipping since it contains the Night of Power.

For example, a monarch may declare certain days to be festivals during his reign, and on those days, he favors his subjects. Similarly, the All-Glorious Monarch of eighteen thousand worlds, who is the Sovereign of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, revealed in Ramadan the illustrious decree of the Quran, which looks to the eighteen thousand worlds. It is a requirement of wisdom, then, that Ramadan should be like a special Divine festival, a dominical display, and a spiritual gathering.

Since Ramadan is a divine festival, man was commanded to fast so that he would be disengaged, to a degree, from base and animal activities.  The most excellent fasting is to make the human senses and organs, like the eyes, ears, heart, and thoughts, fast together with the stomach. That is, to withdraw them from all unlawful things and from trivia, and to urge each of them to their particular worship.

For example, to ban the tongue from lying, backbiting, and obscene language and to make it fast and to busy it with activities like reciting the Quran, praying, glorifying God’s Names, asking for God’s blessings on the Prophet, and seeking forgiveness for sins make the tongue perform a perfect fast. And for example, to prevent the eyes from looking at members of the opposite sex outside the stipulated degrees of kinship, and the ears from hearing harmful things, and to use the eyes to take lessons and the ears to listen to the truth and to the Quran, is to make other organs fast too.

 

8.       Benefits of Fasting in Terms of Man’s Personal Life

 

Fasting in Ramadan has many benefits in terms of man’s material and spiritual life. Fasting is a healing physical and spiritual diet of the most important kind. When man’s soul eats and drinks just as it pleases, it is both harmful for man’s physical life from the medical point of view, and when it hurls itself on everything it encounters without considering whether it is licit or illicit, it quite simply poisons his spiritual life. Furthermore, it is difficult for such a soul to obey the heart and the spirit. It willfully takes the reins into its own hands, and then man cannot ride it, it rather rides man.

Decreasing eating and drinking, and spending time worshipping have an important role on the training of the soul applied by some saints. Fasting in Ramadan helps us train our soul and make it obey the truths.

The stomach that continuously works at normal times by being crammed with food before the previous consignment has been digested takes a rest. And by abandoning eating and drinking, which are licit actions, as it is commanded, the spirit and the soul of man will acquire the ability to listen to the commands of Allah. Thus, his spiritual life becomes more organized.

Moreover, the great majority of the mankind frequently suffer from hunger. Man needs hunger and discipline, which are training for patience and endurance. Fasting in Ramadan is patient endurance of a period of hunger that continues for fifteen hours, or for twenty-four if the pre-dawn meal is not eaten, and it is a discipline and a training. That is to say, fasting is also a cure for impatience and lack of endurance, which increase man’s afflictions.

Furthermore, man has many material and spiritual organs that are connected to the stomach. If the stomach does not rest for a month every year, the organs connected to the stomach will forget their particular duties and be engaged in eating and drinking. Therefore, saints have accustomed themselves to discipline and to eating and drinking little in order to be elevated spiritually.

Through fasting in Ramadan, the workers of the factory of the body understand that they were not created for eating and drinking only. In return for the delighting in the lowly amusements of the body, the spirit and spiritual faculties of man take pleasure in angelic and spiritual amusements in Ramadan.

Therefore, in Ramadan the believers experience enlightenment, fruitfulness, and spiritual joys depending on their degrees. Their subtle faculties, such as the heart, spirit, and intellect, make great progress and advancement in that blessed month by means of fasting. They laugh with innocent joy in spite of the stomach’s weeping.  They laugh with innocent joy in spite of the stomach’s weeping.

(Tamer Buharali  / Facebook / 20.07.2011) 

IC condemns new Israeli settlement plan, Dignite attack

JEDDAH, (PIC)– Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, strongly condemned Israel’s recent decision approving 336 housing units in the West Bank, emphasizing that they were banned by international law.

In a fresh statement released Wednesday, Ihsanoglu called on the Quartet and the international community to compel Israel to discontinue its policy of changing demographics and confiscating lands in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Ihsanoglu also strongly condemned Israel’s naval takeover of the French Dignite – Al-Karama ship while on its way to Gaza, calling it a flagrant violation of international law.

”Israel’s continuance in preventing humanitarian aid convoys to the besieged Gaza Strip, and its attacks on international supporters of the besieged Palestinian people, coinciding with the escalation of its military aggression on the Gaza Strip, require a decisive international stance in the face of the repeated violations and crimes,” Ihsanoglu said.

He also emphasized the need for continued campaigning by pro-Palestinian activists in order to end the siege on the Gaza Strip, and called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities regarding the siege.

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 20.07.2011)

International election monitors not welcome, according to new parliament law

File photo of General Mamdouh Shahin, of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

 

CAIRO: Army council General Mamdouh Shahin said Wednesday that international monitoring of the impending legislative elections will not be allowed because Egypt “doesn’t accept guardianship from any country”, adding that this was an issue of national sovereignty.

At a press conference announcing the final amendments to the Peoples’ Assembly and Shoura Council law and the political rights law, Shahin said than local civil society organizations will be allowed to submit applications to the Supreme Electoral Commission to monitor the elections, as was the case during the referendum held last March.

He explained that electoral system will combine the closed party lists and individual candidates formats, with 50 percent allocated to each.

He described demands by some political parties that 100 percent of MPs be elected through closed party lists as “unconstitutional.”

“If we presume that the number of people that the political parties represent is 10 million, then the rest should be represented by individual candidates to provide equal opportunities for all,” he explained.

However, he added that members of the political parties can also field candidates outside the closed electoral lists. He added that parties will be allowed to run on unified parties list or form alliances and coalitions.

For the People’s Assemble (lower house) elections, the nation will be divided into 184 constituencies, of which 126 will be designated for the individual candidates system. Two candidates will be elected in each constituency, where at least one must be a worker or farmer. The remaining 58 constituencies will be reserved for closed party lists.

In the Shoura Council (Upper House) elections, the nation will be divided into 93 electoral constituencies, 65 of which are reserved for the individual candidates system, while 28 will follow the closed party lists system.

“The constituencies are divided according to security considerations that achieve public interest and safety,” Shahin said.

The People’s Assembly will include 504 elected candidates, in addition to 10 candidates assigned by SCAF as the acting president, while one third of the Shoura Council’s 390 members, will remain empty until the new president is elected. The new president will then exercise his right to appoint one third of the Council.

The 64-seat women’s quota employed in the 2010 parliamentary elections, was cancelled, but replaced by a stipulation that each party must nominate at least one female candidate on its list.

The age of eligible candidates for parliament was also reduced from 30 to 25, to encourage youth participation.

However the age of candidate running in the Shoura Council has remained set at 35.

Shahin said that only parties that receive less than half a percent of national votes will not be permitted representation in parliament.

The new elections will take place over one month, with voting on different days in three regions, General Mamdouh Shaheen told reporters.

He said staggering the vote would ensure that judges could monitor polling thoroughly. Voters will cast ballots for both lower and upper houses at the same time.

“The army’s role during the elections will be to provide security only. Only the judiciary will monitor,” Shaheen said.

All polling stations will be presided over by judges with the total exclusion of police to guarantee their integrity.

However, each committee will have a technical secretariat which will include a representative from the interior ministry.

Shahin did not clarify what the mandate of this secretariat will be.

The issue of Egyptian expatriates voting has been decided yet, he added.

He said that religious campaigning will be banned in the PA elections, adding that anyone who violates this rule will be subjected to a criminal penalty and will be disqualified.

Both the PA and Shoura Council elections will be held on the same day and the run-offs will only be allowed in constituencies contested by individual candidates not closed party lists.

Shahin said that the exact date of the polls will be announced in September and confirmed that it will be long before the end of the year. The recently appointed head of the Supreme Electoral Commission said earlier week that the elections would be in the second half of November.

(www.thedailynewsegypt.com / 20.07.2011)
 

Water in Palestine

West Bank Water Usage

  • Of the water available from West Bank aquifers, Israel uses 73%, West Bank Palestinians use 17%, and illegal Jewish settlers use 10%.
  • While 10-14% of Palestine’s GDP is agricultural, 90% of them must rely on rain-fed farming methods. Israel’s agriculture is only 3% of their GDP, but Israel irrigates more than 50% of its land.
  • Three million West Bank Palestinians use only 250 million cubic meters per year (83 cubic meters per Palestinian per year) while six million Israelis enjoy the use of 1,954 million cubic meters (333 cubic meters per Israeli per year), which means that each Israeli consumes as much water as four Palestinians. Israeli settlers are allocated 1,450 cubic meters of water per person per year.
  • Israel consumes the vast majority of the water from the Jordan River despite only 3% of the river falling within its pre-1967 borders. Israel now diverts one quarter of its total water consumption through its National Water Carrier from the Jordan River, whereas Palestinians have no access to it whatsoever due to Israeli closures.
“There is no reason for Palestinians to claim that just because they sit on lands, they have the rights to that water.”

– Mr. Katz-Oz, Israel’s negotiator on water issues [1]

International Law

  • Under international law it is illegal for Israel to expropriate the water of the Occupied Palestinian Territories for use by its own citizens, and doubly illegal to expropriate it for use by illegal Israeli settlers [2].
  • Also under international law, Israel owes Palestinians reparations for past and continuing use of water resources. This should include interest due to loss of earnings from farming.

Israeli Actions

  • Israel does not allow new wells to be drilled by Palestinians and has confiscated many wells for Israeli use. Israel sets quotas on how much water can be drawn by Palestinians from existing wells.
An Israeli lawn is watered with five sprinklers.
Israeli settlers have no restrictions on water use.
  • When supplies of water are low in the summer months, the Israeli water company Mekorot closes the valves which supply Palestinian towns and villages so as not to affect Israeli supplies. This means that illegal Israeli settlers can have their swimming pools topped up and lawns watered while Palestinians living next to them, on whose land the settlements are situated, do not have enough water for drinking and cooking.
  • Israel often sells the water it steals from the West Bank back to the Palestinians at inflated prices.
  • During the war of 1967, 140 Palestinian wells in the Jordan Valley were destroyed to divert water through Israel’s National Water Carrier. Palestinians were allowed to dig only 13 wells between 1967 and 1996, less than the number of wells which dried up during the same period due to Israel’s refusal to deepen or rehabilitate existing wells.
  • The Gaza strip relies predominately on wells that are being increasingly infiltrated by salty sea water because Israel is over-pumping the groundwater. UN scientists estimate that Gaza will have no drinkable water within fifteen years.

Settlers

Yanoun spring
The main spring in the Palestinian village of Yanoun suffers damages and contamination inflicted by illegal Israeli settlers.
  • In Madama village 50km north of Jerusalem settlers from Yizhar settlement have repeatedly vandalized the villager’s only source of water. They have poured concrete into it, vandalized the connecting pipes and even dropped disposable diapers and other hazardous waste into the springs. Three villagers have been attacked by settlers while trying to repair the water source [3].
  • Constant settler attacks on the community of Yanoun, Nablus governorate, located next to the Itamar settlement, peaked in October 2002 when masked settlers charged into the village with dogs and caused significant damage to the water network, several roof tanks, and the local spring, which is considered to be the main source of water for the community. The main line supplying water to the community from the main spring, as well as the pump, reservoir, fittings and valves were all damaged by settlers. Residents of the community were forced to buy water from tankers from the neighboring community. Tanker access was very difficult due to Israeli closures and checkpoints as well as settler threats and terror which included shootings, beatings, and harassment [4].

Water and the Wall

water reservoir
This water reservoir, located in the village of Attil, Tulkarem district, is isolated by the Wall from the community it serves. It is in the area between the Wall and the Green Line, which Israel is attempting to annex in violation of the Road Map and of international law.
  • Many of the most important underground wellsprings in the West Bank are located just to the east of the Green Line dividing Israel from Palestine. Israel has built the Wall not only to annex land but also to annex many of these wells in order to divert water to Israel and illegal West Bank settlements.
  • The Wall is not only an Apartheid Wall, but also a water wall. Some of the largest Israeli settlements (such as Ariel and Qedumin) are built over the Western mountain aquifer, directly in the middle of the northern West Bank agricultural districts, and this is exactly where the wall cuts deepest into Palestinian territory to surround and annex this vital water source.
  • The building of the Wall has caused the village of Falamya in Qalqiliya district to lose its main source of water. In Jayyous, a village near Falamya, all of its seven water wells have been annexed or destroyed by the Apartheid Wall.
  • In the West Bank, around 50 groundwater wells and over 200 cisterns have been destroyed or isolated from their owners by the Wall. This water was used for domestic and agricultural needs by over 122,000 people. To build the Wall, 25 wells and cisterns and 35,000 meters of water pipes have also been destroyed [5].
  • In 2003, the losses incurred by Palestinian farmers due to the Wall diverting water resources has been 2,200 tons of olive oil, 50,000 tons of fruit, and 100,000 tons of vegetables [6].
  • The Wall is obstructing many water run-off flows in the Qalqiliya region that normally divert water to prevent flooding. During heavy rains in February 2005, Israeli soldiers refused to open drainage pipes in Qalqiliya, which led to heavy flood damage to crops and homes there. The Wall also caused severe flooding in Zububa and other villages.

Under the conditions brought about by the siege imposed by Israeli occupation forces, civilians in the occupied territories are suffering from lack of access to necessary resources for the maintenance of their daily needs and basic health. We have reached a state of emergency in the water sector in the Occupied Territories. We must call for an immediate end to the siege upon the water sector.

Endnotes

  1. www.palestinecenter.org
  2. Article 1(2) of the 1966 United Nations Human Rights Covenants proclaims: “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based on the principle of mutual benefit and international law. . .”
  3. http://www.Oxfam.org, (November 2003)
  4. “Incursions & Destruction,” Palestinian Hydrology Group
  5. The Water and Sanitation Hygiene Monitoring Project (WaSH MP)
  6. http://www.globalpolicy.org

(www.ifamericansknew.org / 20.07.2011)

Israel to deport Gaza ship activists

Gaza Strip, (Pal Telegraph)-Israeli authorities decided to deport  all peace activists who were on the board of the French ship “dignity” that was fully seized by Israeli navy yesterday.

According to Israeli radio, Israel announced today the deportation of 16 participants to their home countries after being investigated by the immigration unit of the Israeli Ministry of Interior.

Over 150 Israeli soldiers participated yesterday in surrounding and preventing the ship from reaching the coasts of Gaza Strip.

The scene took place without clashes or causalities that refuted Israeli claims of violent intention by flotilla activists.

The French ship “dignity”, part of the Freedom Flotilla 2, was carrying humanitarian aids and international activists from different European states and was seeking to break the Israeli naval blockade imposed for more than five years.

(networkedblogs.com / 20.07.2011)

Beit Hanoun, 63 years and 300 meters later.

Beit Hanoun, 63 years and 300 meters later.

The Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, happened sixty three years ago.  The theft of Palestinian land continues even today.  Every Tuesday, for the last three years, the people of Beit Hanoun have protested both the occupation and Israel’s three hundred meter “buffer zone” which Israel has declared on Palestinian land near the border of Gaza.  We gathered today, like we do every Tuesday near the agricultural college in Beit Hanoun.  Local farmers warned us that for the last couple of days Israeli forces had been camped out in the abandoned houses near the border.  Just as their grandfathers were driven from their homes by Zionist violence, so these farmers were driven out of their homes by Zionist violence.  Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Over the weekend six were injured in Beit Hanoun when Israel bombed a well in the middle of a residential district.
At eleven A.M. we set off toward the wall, toward the land that their grandfathers were expelled from.  A drone buzzes overhead.  We can see the clouds of dust raised by the movement of Israeli tanks on the other side of the wall.  The farmland in the “buffer zone” has been newly desecrated, bulldozed again, an area that used to be fields and orchards that had been reduced to a few hardy weeds, now devoid of even weeds.  The Palestinian flags that we had planted there during previous demonstrations buried under the earth.  Given the warnings of Israeli soldiers in the abandoned houses and the bombing over the weekend, we were all more nervous than usual.  Bella Ciao boomed out over the megaphone, but few sang along, most of us thinking our own thoughts, worrying alone.

We walked past the last tree still standing, a beautiful tree covered in fragrant pink flowers.  We entered the newly destroyed “buffer zone”, stopped, planted new flags, dreamed of planting new trees, of seeing a dead zone brought back to life.  People looked into the distance, dreaming of their grandfathers trees, trees that many of them have never been allowed to see, their fruit stolen by the grandchildren of the same people who drove their grandfathers from their land.  We chanted for a free Palestine.  Dust rose from the movement of an Israeli tank.  We returned to Beit Hanoun, but at least we had left a flag behind to commemorate that we were there, that the grandchildren of the cleansed still live.

(gazatvnews.com / 20.07.2011)

Europese Raad bekritiseert Belgisch boerkaverbod

De Europese Raad bekritiseert het Belgische verbod op een sluier die het hele gezicht van een vrouw bedekt. Dat meldt Thomas Hammarberg, mensenrechtencommissaris van de Europese Raad. Het verbod wordt zaterdag van kracht.

In plaats van de vrouwen te bevrijden, isoleert en stigmatiseert het verbod vrouwen die een boerka of een nikab dragen, zegt Hammarberg.

Rechten van de mens
“De islamofobie en vooroordelen over moslims blijven de tolerantiegeest in Europa ondermijnen. Het debat over een verbod van de boerka en nikab in openbare plaatsen is daar een symptoom van”, aldus de commissaris.

“Het verbod kan een schending van de Europese normen voor de rechten van de mens inhouden, vooral het recht op een privéleven en een persoonlijke identiteit”, onthult hij.

Straffen
Volgens de nieuwe wet riskeren vrouwen die dergelijke kledij dragen, een boete en een celstraf van maximaal zeven dagen.

Frankrijk was het eerste Europese land dat een dergelijke sluier verbood. Sinds de wet er in april dit jaar van kracht ging, kreeg een dertigtal vrouwen een proces-verbaal of werden de vrouwen vervolgd.

(www.demorgen.be / 20.07.2011)

Spain tells Abbas it backs efforts for Palestinian state

MADRID (AFP) — Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez told visiting President Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday that Madrid backs efforts to create an independent Palestinian state, the government said.

Abbas met with Jimenez and Spain’s King Juan Carlos at the start of a two-day visit to the country aimed at drumming up support for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The minister expressed the desire to continue the work which has been carried out over the past years to strengthen ties and support efforts by the Palestinian National Authority to build a future Palestinian state,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Jimenez also told Abbas that the bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state was “legitimate” and said Madrid would determine its position “based on the proposals that arise, in a constructive spirit”.

Abbas will Wednesday meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid before heading to Barcelona where he will hold talks with the new head of the Union for the Mediterranean, Morocco’s Youssef Amrani.

He arrived in Spain from Norway and will head to Turkey after leaving Barcelona on Wednesday.

The United States has been cool to the idea of UN recognition and has urged the Palestinian government in Ramallah and Israel not to take unilateral steps that could jeopardize a final peace settlement.

(www.maannews.net / 19.07.2011)

Limburgs PVV-Statenlid gaat alleen verder

MAASTRICHT –  Het Limburgse Statenlid Harm Uringa is per direct uit de Statenfractie van de PVV gestapt. Dat gebeurde „om hem moverende redenen”, maakte de PVV-Statenfractie dinsdag bekend.

Uringa gaat verder als zelfstandige fractie binnen het Limburgs Parlement, zoals de Limburgse Staten zichzelf noemen. Meer wilde de fractie dinsdag niet kwijt.

Het is het derde Statenlid dat in juli is opgestapt bij de partij. Eerder lieten Harm Beertema (Zuid-Holland) en Ronald van Vliet (Limburg) weten het bijltje erbij neer te gooien.

Uringa wil niet zeggen waarom hij uit de fractie is gestapt. „Dat heb ik met de PVV afgesproken”, lichtte hij toe.

Leuk

Hij liet weten zijn zetel niet af te staan aan de PVV. „Ik vind het Statenlidmaatschap zo leuk en ik heb in vier maanden zulke goede contacten gelegd met Statenleden, dat ik die niet zomaar opgeef”, zei hij.

Of hij met de PVV nog door een deur kan, moet blijken, liet hij weten. „Maar ik ben niet van mijn geloof afgevallen en dus niet opgeschoven naar de andere kant van het politieke spectrum”. Hij zal elk voorstel op zijn merites beoordelen, zei hij.

CDA grootste

Door het opstappen van Uringa (66) is het CDA met 10 zetels de grootste fractie geworden in de Limburgse Staten. De PVV heeft nog 9 zetels. PVV, CDA en VVD vormen samen de coalitie. Die houdt met 27 van de 47 zetels een meerderheid in Limburg.

Uringa werkte tot zijn pensionering vorig jaar in de ICT-sector als projectmanager. Pas in oktober 2010 werd hij actief voor de PVV. In maart werd hij tot Statenlid gekozen. Hij sprak daarbij de ambitie uit te willen zorgen voor onder meer een transparantere cultuur in de Limburgse politiek.

(www.telegraaf.nl / 19.07.2011)

French Boat to Gaza: the seizure by Israeli forces is an illegal act and an act of violence

19/07/2011 16:19

The French ship Dignité Al Karama has been captured in international waters by Israeli forces and taken to the port of Ashdod. Its passengers were transferred to a military ship. This seizure is an act of violence and illegal.

Armed commandos of the Israeli army boarded the French boat 40 miles off the coast of Gaza in international waters, as in May 2010 when the Israeli army attacked the first Freedom Flotilla. This is a new act of piracy against “Tom Thumb.”

We are not yet certain that there has been no violence, as claimed by the Israeli army, because no contact with passengers is possible. Military censorship is being applied. In any case, the use of force to bring a boat and its passengers in the port of Ashdod under the threat of weapons with military vessels is an act of violence must be condemned, as must the blockade of Gaza.

Bateau pour Gaza, l’abordage de l’armée israélienne est un acte illégal et un acte de violence

19/07/2011 16:19

Le bateau français Dignité Al Karama a été capturé dans les eaux internationales par l’armée israélienne et amené dans le port d’Ashdod, Ses passagers ont été transférés sur un bateau militaire. Cet abordage est un acte de violence et un acte illégal.

Les commandos armés de l’armée israélienne ont abordé le bateau français à 40 miles des côtes de Gaza dans les eaux internationales, comme en mai 2010 quand l’armée israélienne avait attaqué la première flottille de la liberté. C’est un nouvel acte de piraterie, contre un « Petit poucet citoyen ».

Nous ne sommes pas pour le moment certains qu’il n’y a pas eu de violence, comme le prétend l’armée israélienne, car aucun contact avec les passagers n’est possible. La censure militaire est toujours appliquée. Dans tous les cas amener de force un bateau et ses passagers dans le port d’Ashdod sous la menace d’armes, avec des bateaux militaires, est un acte de violence qui doit être condamné, comme doit l’être le blocus de Gaza.

Press Release
Athens, 19/7/2011
1:30pm

This morning, the French flag ship “Dignité/Al Karama”, carrying 16 passengers -among them the coordinator of the Greek Initiative Vangelis Pissias, and representing the international “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human” – started to sail from outside Port Said of Egypt towards the Gaza Strip. The boat gave its last position when in international waters, approximately 50 miles away from Gaza coast. Since 11:00am, while surrounded by 4 Israeli naval ships according to its passengers, every communication has been interrupted. A little while ago, it was reported as confirmed that the vessel was seized.

Israel, once again, appears to play the role of the sheriff in the south-eastern Mediterranean. The disregard of any notion of international law, the mobilization of any legal or illegal means to achieve its objectives -to prevent any attempt of expressing practical international solidarity with Palestine- is a permanent well known tactic. The Greek government acted in such a pro-Israeli way that even Israel wouldn’t expect, shamelessly accepting congratulations by the Israeli and US governments, while at the same moment Palestinians in Ramallah heavily disapproved of the Greek President -first time for a Greek politician.

We demand from the Greek government, of course not to condemn the illegal act of its Israeli friends, who once again intervened militarily and beyond any concept of international law, against unarmed citizens in the international waters of SE Mediterranean, but to do, at least, the minimum and fundamentally self-evident: intervene immediately in order to protect -as required by the Constitution-the life and integrity of all on board and -above all- the Greek Vangelis Pissias.

The Greek society will provide the response to the latest Israeli provocative act. The Greek society who -unlike it’s government- stands firmly and through time in solidarity to the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people.

We call for a rally today at Syntagma, Tuesday 19th at 7:00pm

Passenger List for “Dignité / Al Karama”
1. Stéphane Corriveau (Canadian Boat to Gaza)
2. Dror Feiler (Ship to Gaza-Sweden and European Jews for a Just Peace, composer – musician)
3. Hilary Folacci (Sailor)
4. Jérôme Gleizes (European Greens)
5. Jacqueline Le Corre (MD, Collectif 14 Support to the Palestinian people, PCF/french communist party)
6. Jean Claude Lefort (Honorary Member of french Parliament)
7. Jo Leguen (Navigator)
8. Claude Léostic (Spokesperson of Campaign “A French ship to Gaza” – Association France/Palestine /Solidarity -AFPS)
9. Yamin Makri (Collectif 69 Support the Palestinian people)
10. Omeyya Naoufel Seddik (Tunisian Federation for citizenship on both sides- FTCR, political scientist)
11. Dr. Vangelis Pissias (Campaign “Ship to Gaza – Greece”, professor at Higher Institute of Technology, Athens)
12. Thomas Sommer – Houdeville (Spokesperson of Campaign “A French ship to Gaza” and “Campagne Civile Internationale Pour la Protection du Peuple Palestinien – CCIPPP”, associate researcher at the IFPO – Institut Français du Proche Orient)
13. Yannick Voisin (captain).
Also on board
14. Ayyash Derradji Al Jazeera journalist
15. Stéphane Guida, cameraman for Al Jazeera,
16. Amira Hass (Israeli journalist – Haaretz).

The FPM Team

(Facebook / 19.07.2011)