Asking Obama to Protect Gaza Relief Ship

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who has signed on to participate in a new attempt to bring relief supplies to Palestinians living in Gaza, asks President Barack Obama to intercede with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the ship, “The Audacity of Hope,” to reach its destination.

Open Letter to President Obama

By Ray McGovern (for the passengers and crew of “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza)

May 19, 2011

Dear Mr. President:

Your speech on the Middle East earlier today emboldens me to claim your protection as we set out to put flesh on your rhetoric. Fifty of your fellow citizens will be sailing on “The Audacity of Hope” to Gaza next month.

You spoke eloquently today about “times in the course of history when the action of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years.” And you lamented “failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people.”

We, the passengers and crew of “The Audacity of Hope,” sailing to Gaza in June together with the 2nd International Freedom Flotilla, represent ordinary Americans determined to speak to the aspirations of the 1.5 million ordinary Gazans yearning to be free.

We will be delivering thousands of letters of support and friendship from other ordinary Americans who are persuaded, as Dr. King put it, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I write you for assurance of your support and protection as we try to embody your rhetoric. You emphasized that “the United States supports a set of universal rights,” and that this U.S. support is “not a secondary interest.” It is, rather, “a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions.”

Bold words. With respect to the situation in Gaza, though, perhaps you will agree that it hardly suffices to bemoan the fate of one “Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza,” who, as you put it, has a “right to feel angry.”

That Palestinian and his dead daughters are four, but 1,400 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces in December 1998-January 1999 — and 1.5 million Gazans remain deprived of the universal rights of which you spoke.

Gaza is a sequestered, crowded open-air prison, in which Israel keeps “inmates” at a subsistence level of existence. This amounts to the kind of collective punishment banned by international law and is enforced by an equally illegal Israeli naval blockade.

Many Americans have long been puzzled that you choose to exempt Gazans from your concern about universal rights, and have tired of waiting for a cogent explanation. So we ask you to look upon our voyage to Gaza as our attempt to implement your rhetoric about what ordinary citizens can do — not only to “speak” but to act to meet the broader aspirations of the ordinary people of Gaza.

On May 20, you will have an opportunity to inform Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of our intention to sail to Gaza next month. You have probably already been briefed on Israel’s far-flung diplomatic and propaganda offensive to prevent our boat and the other boats of the international flotilla from embarking for Gaza.

Indeed, the Israelis may be emboldened by your lack of response to the killing of nine passengers, including an American citizen, on the 2010 relief flotilla and the wounding of dozens of other peaceful passengers. This year we expect you to speak up for us beforehand.

And please do not try to pretend that $3 billion of our taxes — our annual gift to Israel — cannot be translated into the kind of leverage that will spare “The Audacity of Hope” from harm at the hands of the “Israeli Defense Forces.”

Finally, allow me to suggest talking points not likely to be included in your briefing papers. These points transcend rhetoric and spring from a faith heritage you share with Netanyahu. They deal with the doing of justice, the preoccupation of the prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Before your meeting, have a look at what Isaiah says about “proclaiming liberty to captives and release to prisoners” and how Jesus of Nazareth repeats that, word for word, eight centuries later. Think about it, and be prepared to put justice above politics.

Please let us – and the world – know how the discussion goes.

Yours truly,

Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early 1960s and then as a CIA analyst for 27 years. In the early 1980s, he prepared and presented, one-on-one, the President’s Daily Brief. He now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

(consortiumnews.com / 23.05.2011)

Golflanden schorsen bemiddeling Jemen

De regionale Samenwerkingsraad voor de Golf (GCC) heeft zondagavond laat besloten de pogingen om te bemiddelen tussen president Ali Abdullah Saleh en de oppositie in Jemen te staken. Dat gebeurde nadat Saleh voor de derde keer een overeenkomst niet wilde tekenen, terwijl hij dat wel had toegezegd.

De GCC maakte het besluit na een vergadering in de Saudische stad Riyad bekend. Volgens de raad zijn er ”onvoldoende werkzame voorwaarden overeengekomen”.

De oppositie had het voorstel zaterdag al getekend. Saleh was zondag aan de beurt, maar wilde op het laatste moment zijn handtekening niet zetten omdat de oppositie niet aanwezig was. In de overeenkomst stond onder meer dat Saleh binnen dertig dagen zou aftreden in ruil voor immuniteit.

(www.parool.nl / 22.05.2011)

Towards Understanding Islam

You’ve heard the word Islam but you don’t understand what it’s all about. You wanted to know what is Islam as you see Muslims all over the place yet most people don’t even know what Islam is. You find it ridiculously ironic that something is so prevalent yet so unknown to most people. You wanted to know exactly what Islam is and why Muslims claim that it is the only True Religion. But your question of why demands a rational answer. You just don’t accept something that doesn’t make any sense. The answer of why had to be logically sound, there had to be a rational behind it, something that is based on analyzing the patterns of reasoning by which a conclusion is properly drawn from a set of self-evident proofs thereby proving without a shadow of a doubt its undeniable truth.

Islam not only claims to be the only true way but it also presents a series of logical and clear evidences to back that claim. This article attempts to present Islam that would captivate our intellectual reasoning by analyzing its clear and rational proofs. In order to understand it intellectually, we need to establish a basis for our discussion which takes into account certain characteristics a True Religion must have which must be accepted at the outset. Otherwise, there can be no common ground between the one who poses the question and the one tries to answer it.

These characteristics are:

1. It must exist since the beginning of time. This is necessary because if it doesn’t, then we cannot claim a religion to be true if there are people who had lived and died before its existence simply because salvation would be impossible for them.

2. The object of worship must be the Creator, and not His creation. This is obvious. But false religions don’t do this, they worship God’s creation instead of God, the Creator.

3. It must be universally available everywhere and at any given point in time. The True Religion must not depend on to a particular person, restricted at a certain place, or limited at any given point in time.

Within the framework which these characteristics are established, we will find that the answer to the question as to why Islam is the only True Religion is an enlightening one. One that is truly an eye-opener if we would only open up our minds and set aside our prejudices.

The starting point of understanding Islam is to know the meaning of the word Islam itself. The word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word SLM, which literally means to surrender, to submit, to yield, or to give one’s self up. It also includes the meaning of peace – to achieve peace – because in Arabic, a word can have a variety of meaning depending on the context that is being intended. In Arabic morphology, or the study of linguistic patterns of word formation, there are a lot of words that can be formed out from the root word SLM. One such word is “SaLaM”, literally means peace. Another word is “aSLaMa”, which means a person who had submitted, or he resigned himself into something. Similarly, it uses the prefix mu to denote someone performing an action, when combine with this root word, it will turn out the word “muSLiM”, a person who is doing the act of submission, or an individual who gives himself up. And from this same root word, a noun from verb can be derived from it, and the word “iSLaM” is formed out. Notice how the three root letters SLM can come out in different words depending on what and how you want to use it in Arabic.

The word Islam has a two-fold meaning: submission and peace. This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the One God. Once we humble ourselves and submit totally to God – in faith and in action – we will surely find an inner peace in our lives. These two meanings are interrelated to one another in such a way that the natural consequence of this act of submission to God is that man achieves peace to his own self as the end result of his action. In short, Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to God’s will.

So from the root word SLM, which carries the meanings of submission, to submit, peace and to achieve peace, the words ISLAM, SALAM, ASLAMA, and MUSLIM are deduced. iSLaM is the name of an action word indicating submission to the will of God, or an act of resignation to God. In the greetings among Muslims, the word SaLaM is there in “as salam mu alaykum”, which means peace be unto you. aSLaMa, the past tense of the verb, is the term used for a person who had accepted Islam, or somebody who had surrendered himself to the will of God. And a muSLiM is the active participle of the verb, somebody who is the doer of that action. He is someone who submits to the will of God and has achieved peace to himself.

Islam teaches that one must submit to the will of God and live according to the teachings of the prophets. A Muslim therefore believes in all the prophets starting with Adam and together with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, etc. He also believes that God had sent His prophets to all corners of the earth to preach only one religion and to guide man to the right path. But mankind not only strayed away from the right path again and again, they also lost or distorted the code of guidance that the prophets had brought. That is why prophets were sent to re-state the original message and guide man back to the right path. The message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets in different times of history until God sent down the last revelation to the last prophet.

This last revelation is known as the Quran. It is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God to the last prophet. This revelation was memorized, recorded and passed on as is. The last prophet received the exact wording and passed it on to his followers. The Qur’an has been perfectly preserved since its revelation both orally and in writing. Even today, there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world who can recite the entire text of the Qur’an from memory, just as it was memorized in the time of the last prophet. Original copies of the manuscript still exist today and not one word of it has been changed over the centuries. It remains preserved and unchanged since the time of revelation in its original Arabic text over fourteen centuries ago. It is God and only God speaking in the Qur’an. There are no comments, passages or quotes from humans whatsoever in the Qur’an.
This Last Prophet is Muhammad, a name which may not sound like a prophet for those who are not Muslims, but when we try to look at the world’s most influential people that had lived in history, here is a man who has touched the lives of billions of people for the last 1400 years. Whose teachings are so simple that over the centuries had passed, people from all walks of life, from every nation on earth, and from every human race accepted Islam. His message is very clear and easy to understand – He called people to worship One God, as well as living by example of God’s message.
Thus, the Muslim’s beliefs are based on two sources, the Qur’an: the last divine message of God that He revealed to Muhammad, the last prophet, and the Sunnah: a collection of recorded words and actions of Prophet Muhammad, it helps explain and clarify the Qur’an and to present practical applications to its message. It is these two sources of guidance, which is now known as Islam: as revealed in the Qur’an and as exemplified by the last prophet. Because of the absolutely unique position he occupied as the recipient of revelations from God, every act and detail of his life was of the greatest interest to those around him. His life-example became a guide for Muslims in the understanding of the Qur’an and the practice of their religion.
For Muslims throughout the centuries, the message of the Qur’an and the life-example of Prophet Muhammad have constituted the formative and enduring foundation of faith and good deeds. They have served as the basic sources of principles and norms on which daily life is to be patterned. So Islam is not just a religion in of itself, but a complete way of life, providing guidelines in every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Muslims have a book of guidance, and a prophet who lived a life of guidance that was sent forth in the book. Prophet Muhammad’s life was the best example of the noble lessons and principles set forth in the Qur’an. Because of this, the last prophet’s teachings and practices have become a material source of Muslim creed alongside the Qur’an.
The Qur’an – the last divine revelation – exists in its original text, without a word or even a letter having been changed. And the Sunnah – the last prophet’s words and actions – is preserved with authenticity and accuracy. The accounts preserved in the books of Sunnah are a collection of authentic narrative stories about the prophet’s life. Muslims have carefully and in detail scrutinized the reliability of the transmitters of these narrations, and only those whose narrators are found to be completely reliable and sound are accepted. So not only do Muslims have the complete text of God’s message that was revealed to Muhammad, the Qur’an, but they have also preserved the entire record of his teachings and practices in what is called as the Sunnah. The Sunnah demonstrates how the Qur’an is to be implemented. The Qur’an is the manual, and the Sunnah is the practical demonstration of that manual. Prophet Muhammad conveyed not only the message of the Qur’an, but he also lived by example of its practical application. Thus, the Qur’an and the Life-example of the last prophet together became the beautiful way of life that we know today as Islam.
Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam, as many people mistakenly think. He was only a human being commissioned by God to teach His commandments and lead an exemplary life. He stands as the best model for the Muslims in righteousness that is why his life served as an example in which a Muslim’s life is to be patterned. Islam did not begin with the prophethood of Muhammad nor was it founded by him. The real founder of Islam was no less than God Himself, and the date of the founding of Islam goes back at the time of Adam, the father of mankind. It was not Muhammad but Adam who first brought Islam to humanity. Then, each prophet and messenger came to teach their own people to a clear understanding of God’s commandments. They put forward teachings relevant on their time but the essence and core concept of their message was the same, and that is the worship of One God purely and submission to His will.
Prophet Muhammad himself makes it abundantly clear that Islam, the complete submission of man before God, is the one and only faith consistently revealed by God to mankind from the very beginning. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus – prophets of the past who appeared at different times and places all brought the same message. They were each repeating the message of his predecessor. Thus, Islam has had existed in one form or another through a series of divine guidance that God had revealed to different prophets, on separate times and in various places. Prophets were sent to all nations of the earth to guide people to the straight path of worshiping One God. But, with the passage of time, people went astray and the teachings of the prophets were either changed or lost. That’s why prophets were sent again and again to all corners of the earth until the last prophet came.
For this reason, Islam is not a new religion with a new scripture brought by Prophet Muhammad, but rather to be a re-expression in its complete and final form of the true religion of God, as it was originally revealed to Adam and subsequent prophets. The Qur’an only represents the original message that was brought by prophets of the past. The Qur’an teaches that the message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets since the time of Adam. The essence of Islam, which is the worship of One God and sincere submission to His will, was revealed to Adam who passed it on to his descendants. All following revelations to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad were in conformity with that message differing only according to the needs of the people to which they were sent. These prophets taught their people the same concept of religion of what is known today as Islam.
The most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad is faith in Tawheed, or the Oneness of God. In Arabic, the term Tawheed comes from the word waahid, literally means One, and it implies to make wahada, which means to make something one, or to assert the oneness of something. The word waahid is the opposite of plurality. So waahid is something that will continue to be singular and never become a partner of something else. However, in a religious context, the word Tawheed means to single out God with all forms of worship, so that you make all your worship for God alone. That is, to make wahada to worship, to assert the Oneness of God in all forms of worship, or to direct all forms of worship to someone who is waahid – the One (God).

Tawheed
, or the “Oneness of God” lies at the very heart of Islam. It strongly emphasize that there is only One True God and that He alone deserves to be worshiped. It asserts God’s oneness in its simplest, uncomplicated, most literal sense. That there is “One God” in the most basic, simple, and elementary meaning of the word. He has no son, no parents nor any similarity or equal. His nature as a Supreme Being does not resemble in anything, and such qualities as The Creator and Provider, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, All-Knowing, All-Hearing and Seeing, All-Powerful, etc. only belongs to Him and there’s absolutely no one like Him. Islam teaches that God has a unique nature and that He is free from gender, human weaknesses, and beyond anything which human beings can imagine. There is nothing like Him in this world because the Creator must be distinct and different from the things that He creates. He is above all defects and above any similarity to anything in creation.
And this Unique and Great God, who has the exclusive right to be worshiped by man, revealed His glorious name in the Qur’an as “Allah”, and describe Himself as the One and Only True God whom worship is due:

{“ Verily, I am Allah! There is no God but I, so worship Me alone”}
(Qur’an 20:14).
In Arabic, the word ilah means “one who is worshiped”. That is, a being which on account of its greatness and power is considered worthy to be worshiped. Anything or any being who possess powers that is so great that it controls the whole of creation is also called ilah. The concept of ilah also includes the sense that the whole creation is dependent on Him and He is not dependent on anyone else. He does not need anything. He does not need His creation. But the whole creation turns to Him for all that they need. Other languages also contain words with a similar meaning, and the word God in English have a similar connotation of the Arabic word ilah.

In the Arabic Grammar, if you want to make a common noun to proper, you add the definite article “al” to it. The prefix “al” is equivalent to the word “the” in English. So the definite article al is added to the word ilah to make it proper. Thus, the proper noun of ilah is the word Allah. The word “Allah” literally means “The God” – made up of the word al (the Arabic word for the) and the word ilah (the Arabic word for God). But a more accurate translation of the word Allah into English would be “The One and Only God”, or “The One True God”.

 
The name “Allah” is something that God Himself who informed us through divine revelation that this is His name. Muslims refer to God as “Allah” only because this name is what the Creator calls Himself in the Qur’an. It came from divine revelation and it is the name that God use to refer to Himself.
When Prophet Muhammad started to talk about Islam to his people, they asked him who is Allah. The answer didn’t came from the prophet. Allah revealed one chapter in the Qur’an in response to their question:
{“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): He is Allah, the One and Unique (God). Allah, the Everlasting Self-Sufficient (whom all creatures need). He has not given birth and was not born. And no one is comparable to Him.”} (Qur’an 112: 1-4).
This is Allah Himself answering to the question of who He is. And there is no better answer. To Muslims, this four-verse definition of God serves as the touchstone of the study of divinity. Any man-made concept of God must be subjected to this acid test. False and erroneous concepts about God can easily be dismissed using these verses. These verses tell us that God is only One, not three-in-one. God has no needs and is self-sufficient, but the whole creation is dependent on Him for all that they need. God was not born, nor does He give birth. Thus, He does not have a son and share His divinity to others. And there is no creation that is like Him. He is the Creator and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a man.
But Islam makes it very clear though, that the belief in Allah doesn’t only mean to simply believe that He is the One True God, but it does mean also, and this is the most important point that needs to be stressed: that the belief in Tawheed means much more than simply believing that there is “One God”, but it strongly emphasize that all kinds of worship should exclusively be devoted to Allah alone and that every care is taken to ensure that this is observed at all times.

Tawheed is the belief that Allah is:

1. One without partner in His Dominion and Actions

2. One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes
3. One without rival in His Divinity and Worship
This is the core of the matter in Islam: that Allah is One without partner in His Dominion and Actions – He alone is the One who has the absolute control over creation, He alone has the power over all things; He is  One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes – no other entity can in any way have the attributes of the Creator, He is far beyond our imagination and bears no resemblance to any of His creation; And He is One without rival in His Divinity and Worship – to single out the Creator alone for all worship, and not to worship anything along with Him.
The absence of any of the above aspects of Tawheed is referred to as Shirk, literally means sharing. It refers to the worship of others instead of Allah or along with Allah. It is an act of assigning partners to Allah in whatever form it may take. In Islam, the main objective is to ensure the Oneness of God. It is not enough that people believe that “God is One”, but they must follow up this belief by worshiping that One God alone. This simple concept of Tawheed has to be explained in detail because for some people, even though they believe in “One God”, do not direct all of their worship and prayers to Him alone. They call on numerous saints for every specific need, in statues made of stone, etc. Their argument is that they are not actually worshiping the stone image or the statue, but God who is present within it. They claim that the stone idols and carved images are only the focal point for God’s essence and is not in itself God. They try devising a “rational excuse” for their actions. But obviously, this is faulty reasoning. This is not from God – this is idolatry. This is the worst sin that a man can commit.
The belief in Tawheed means to deny all forms of association of partners with Allah. It rejects the use of all intermediaries between God and man, and stresses that people approach God directly and reserve all worship for Him alone. If someone faces an idol or to a stone image and prays, he has associated a partner with Allah, because worship is being shared between Allah and His creation. Likewise if someone prays to a prophet, to so-called saints asking for help from Allah thru them, has also committed shirk. Shirk can take many forms: facing to idols or statues while praying, calling upon saints for help, believing that God became man, etc. All forms of shirk must be avoided, no matter what shape, form, or name. Shirk simply means an act of worship for other than Allah, or along with Allah. In other words, it is an act of calling, supplicating, and praying to created beings instead of the Creator. The greatest sin in Islam is to engage in practices which contradict or compromise Tawheed. This direct or indirect association of partners with Allah is referred to as Shirk.
Allah created humans to worship Him, that’s why Shirk represents the greatest act of rebellion against God because it contradicts the purpose of our creation, and is thus the ultimate sin. It is a sin so great that it virtually cancels out all good a person may do and guarantees its perpetrator eternal in Hell if he does not give it up before his death:
{“If you were to join other gods with Allah, (then) surely (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will surely be among the losers (in the hereafter)”} (Qur’an 39:65).
Of course, if a person does give up this sin of idolatry before his death, then he is safe from such eternal punishment in Hell fire. Islam’s greatest commandment is to worship Allah alone, and its strictest prohibition is worshiping others besides Him or along with Him.

Man-made religions in one way or the other invite their followers to the worship of creation. Some people are called upon to pray to a man, a prophet named Jesus, whom they have claimed to have been the “son of God”. They also pray to Mary as the “mother of God”, as well as human saints, etc. They made a god out of Jesus and directed their prayer to him and his mother. They have saints for every occasion to whom they direct their prayers in the belief that these saints can directly influence the affairs of this world. They also use their priests as intercessors between themselves and God, in the mistaken belief that the priests are closer to God due to their celibacy and piety, and thus more likely to be listened to by God.

Since the greatest sin in God’s sight is the worship of others besides Him or along with Him, and everything besides Him is creation, the principles of Islam are all either directly or indirectly opposed to the worship of creation. The fundamental tenets of Islam make a very clear distinction between the Creator and what He has created. The Creator and the created are separate and distinct. The Creator is invisible in this life. No one can see Him in this earthly life. Thus, He is not manifested or incarnated in any other life forms. Therefore, the commandments in Islam concerning worship clearly indicate that Allah is not to be found in created beings, He is totally separate from them, and thus any worship in His creation or thru His creation is the greatest of sins:
{“Joining others in worship with Allah is indeed the greatest sin”} (Qur’an 31:13).
The concept of Oneness of God is the single most important concept in Islam. This is the most fundamental principle, it is this concept of Tawheed which is at the core of Islam. It calls humanity away from the worship of any part of creation to the worship of The One and Only True God, The Creator.
Some religions claim that God cannot forgive man directly therefore He sends His so-called “only begotten son” to save mankind from their sins. Others interpret this concept that God came down to earth and became a human being to save mankind’s sins. By claiming that God cannot forgive humans directly, people turn to false gods for help. These false gods come in different forms, and anyone who is in his right mind can tell that these so-called gods are indeed false because these are created beings like him.
False religions either claim that God became man, or that God may be worshiped in the form of His creation thru carved-images of different idols. But as has been revealed in the Qur’an, God was not born nor does He give birth, and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a human being.
Islam strongly stresses that God did not became man nor did He sent a so-called “only begotten son” to save the sins of the world because He can forgive man directly anyway. There is no need to shed blood to an innocent person just to save mankind from its sins because God is perfectly capable of bestowing His infinite Mercy and Forgiveness to whomever He chooses.

Islam teaches that God should be approached directly without any intermediaries. That is because the Most Merciful, All-Knowing God is completely in control of everything that exists, and that He can bestow His forgiveness and mercy on His creatures as He pleases. Islam commands Man to pray to God directly seeking mercy and forgiveness only to Him. It also forbids man to worship something created because the One True God has to be the Creator and not a part of creation that He creates.

Even though other religious sects have claimed to believe in One God, over time, some man-made ideas entered into their beliefs and practices leading them away from the pure teachings of the prophets. They carved different images and statues and worshiped them, despite the fact that they know that they are the ones who made these things. They worship something that they made by their own hands that cannot hear or answer them. Some even believed that their prophet were the manifestations of God, or “Son of God”. All of these misconceptions lead to the worship of created beings instead of the Creator. But divine revelation makes it very clear that:
{“Allah has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him.”} (Qur’an 23:91).
This means that Allah does not have a son nor share his divinity with others. By neglecting the true teachings of the prophets and mixing them with man-made ideas, other religions have distorted and nullified the pure belief of “One God” even though they claim that they believe in such. Tawheed is not just simply believing that God is One, but it further emphasize to worship that One God alone.
Some people say that they pray to and worship others besides God only to get closer to Him. They often approach God through an intermediary, such as a saint, an angel, a human being like Virgin Mary or to a prophet like Jesus – obviously, these are all God’s creation. In Islam, there is a clear distinction between the Creator and the created. The Creator of everything must be different from and greater than the things that He creates. There is no confusion in divinity. Anything that is created is not deserving of worship, and only the Creator is worthy of being worshiped. It is made clear that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except the One True God, the Creator. Or to put it in one simple statement, “Worship the Creator and not His Creations”.

In Islam, there is no such thing as an intercessor or intermediary in all forms of worship. You don’t need to seek help on anyone such as patron saints, or to call upon to so-called “son of God”, or to seek mercy to the supposed “mother of God”, or to go to a priest to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness, or to face an idol made of wood and stones when you pray, etc. It is only in Islam that a person is required to pray only to God, direct and without any intermediary. There is no need to call on anyone whether it be a saint, an idol made of wood and stones, or someone who is believed to be the “son of God”, because clearly all these are created beings like us.

We can easily determine if a religion is false by looking at the object of their worship. If they worship anything or anyone besides the Creator, then it must be false. It just makes sense to us that the only one who deserves to be worshiped is the One who created us, and not His creations. By using the principle of identifying the object of worship, we can easily detect false religions and the man-made nature of their origin. False religions teach the greatest evil – the worship of creation. For example, Prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship God, but those who claim to be his followers today call people to worship Jesus, claiming that he was God, which is the exact opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus did not claim to be God, nor did he told his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet today most people who claim to be his followers have taken him to be God and pray to images and idols made in their perception of his likeness.
The message of Islam, as brought by the prophets of God, is to worship only the Creator and to avoid the worship of His creation either directly or indirectly. It is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. The objective of Islam is to call people away from the worship of creation and to direct them toward the worship of the Creator alone.
The belief in only One Creator is not all there is to a proper belief in God. Throughout history, it has been the case that some people stopped at this clear premise and deemed that such was all there was to the belief in God. This belief is definitely necessary but not sufficient. This belief must be followed up with the rejection of worshiping others instead of God, or along with Him. Then, and only then that a person will be fulfilling what it truly means to believe in One God. The most important message that God revealed to mankind is that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except Him. This is the very essence of the divine message brought by all the prophets, and it is what Islam really is all about – to worship One God alone.
Islam’s concept of Oneness of God that is Tawheed is very simple and clear, and leaves no room for any type of misconceptions which often lead to the worship of creation that is Shirk. Thus, a person who truly believes in the Oneness of God has to worship Him alone and refrain from associating any partner with Him of any kind. Islam strongly emphasizes the worship of Allah alone without ascribing to Him any partner.

The basic and most fundamental teaching of Islam invites man to worship only its Creator and to avoid the worship of creation in any way shape or form.

In Islam, there is no such thing as “Trinity” because Allah has no partners with Him being God, and He does not share His perfect attributes to anyone. Understanding that Allah is the only Supreme Being means denying the existence of any other god. The concept of Tawheed is straightforward, clear and easy to understand. It is free from irrational, mysterious or confusing ideas. That there is only One God – not in a Trinity or a multitude of gods – is something that even a small child can understand without difficulty.
Thus, simply believing in “One God” is not enough to become a Muslim because other religions also have this belief. This belief in “One God” needs to be supported with practice by worshiping that “One God” alone and no one else. For a Muslim, the belief of “One God” is in its purest, absolute meaning of the word. He refrains from worshiping anything or anyone besides the “One God”.
In Islam, the worst possible sin is to worship anything or anyone other than God, even if the worshiper intends to draw nearer to God by offering devotions to another being. So even though other religions also claim to believe in One God, they fall short and violate this belief by worshiping others alongside Him, which is, as all of the prophets taught, the greatest sin.

Prophet Muhammad was instructed by Allah to tell people what is really forbidden to them:

{“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): Come, I will recite to you what Allah has really forbidden to you: Do not setup anything (in worship) with Him”} (Qur’an 6:151).
Because of this, Islam considers associating any god or personality with Allah as a deadly sin that He will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins. The act of associating others in worship with Allah is the most sinful act that Prophet Muhammad has informed us.
In the Qur’an, Prophet Jesus also told his people regarding this very important matter:
{“But the Messiah (Jesus) said: Oh children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Verily, whosoever sets up partners (in worship) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the Fire will be his abode”} (Qur’an 5:72).
Prophet Jesus called his people to worship Allah without partners. He never claimed divinity for himself, nor did he ever ask to be worshiped. Jesus never claimed to be God, or asked his people to worship him. In fact, Jesus told his followers to pray to God as he himself did. And our logic would tell us that someone who prays to God cannot possibly be God himself. The two has to be separate entities – one is the worshiper and the other is the object of worship.
Tawheed is the true understanding of One God, it is a very simple belief, free from complicated concepts. The message of which God has sent mankind in all ages through His prophets. It was this message with which, in the beginning, Adam was sent down to earth. It was the same message that was revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It was the message which Muhammad brought to mankind. It is a message of pure and absolute, without the least shade of false concepts and irrational beliefs. Man became guilty of Shirk only because he turned away from the teachings of the prophets and depended on his own faulty reasoning, wrong perceptions and erroneous interpretations. Prophets are there to explain God’s message to man. If man turns away from a prophet, he is bound to fall into error. That is why in God’s last divine revelation, the Qur’an, we have a perfect example on how it is to be lived by following the Sunnah of the last prophet. We don’t need to delve into long discussion as to how to practice God’s message because we have a prophet who explained the message and showed us how to apply it in our lives.

This principle of Tawheed has not change through the passage of time. It is the same as the number one commandment in the Ten Commandments of Prophet Moses, the same faith that Prophet Abraham taught to his descendants, the same teaching that Prophet Jesus conveyed to his people, and was also the same warning that Prophet Noah called his people so that they may be save from the big flood of water. All prophets gave the same message, they all taught that God is One, free from sharing His divinity with anyone, and that same message that all the prophets have brought is what we call today as Islam. Prophet Muhammad did not bring something new. Islam is not a new religion. It is, in essence, the same eternal message revealed through the ages to all of God’s prophets and messengers.

Prophet Muhammad only brought the same message of pure monotheism that was taught by the messengers that came before him:

{“And We never sent any messenger before you (Prophet Muhammad), except that We revealed to him that there is no god but Me. Therefore worship Me (alone)”} (Qur’an 21:25).
Prophets were sent to every nation who had strayed away from the right path of Tawheed, to guide them back to it. This principle of Tawheed was the same throughout time: to reject all objects of worship, and to direct all worship without exception to God alone. This is the essence of the true religion and it has been so since the time of Adam. Prophets were sent to particular nations for a certain period of time. But this is not the case of Prophet Muhammad. Since he is the last prophet, his message is for all humanity and will last until the end of time. The teachings of the Qur’an comprise a universal scripture addressed to all of mankind and not to any particular people, or for a specific time period. The message that it brings is nothing new but the same message of all prophets: to worship the One God purely, and submit to God’s will as taught by the prophets.
Thus, it is man’s duty to follow the way of the prophets. And it really does not matter in what place and period of time a person is born because this pure, simple practice of faith has been in existence since Adam’s time. All the different nations and people of the earth from the time of Adam up to the time of Muhammad’s prophethood were given one same message:
{“And verily, We have sent among every nation a messenger (proclaiming): Worship Allah (alone) and avoid false gods”} (Qur’an 16:36).
The message of Islam is a continuation of the clear and profound message of pure monotheism revealed by God throughout history to all of His prophets in every place on earth. Anyone, born in any place, and at any period of time, can become a Muslim because Islam is what the prophets had been teaching ever since the time of Adam. All people who followed one of the many prophets, who believe in One True God without partners, and submit themselves to Him are called Muslims – a person who submits his will to the will of God according to the teachings of the prophets.
The true religion of God cannot be confined to any one person, place, or period of time. If we were to claim that a certain religion is true, then it has to be accessible at any period of time, anywhere. Because if it doesnt, then how can a person attain salvation and follow a religion claimed to be true if he was born and died before the religion even exists? The test of its universality then is the hallmark of a true religion, because for it to be true, a religion has to be accessible to mankind at all times under all circumstances. And within the central principle of Islam and its definition (the surrender of one’s will to God) lie the roots of Islam’s universality – the religion that man can practice from the time of Adam until the end of time.
With its universality, Islam is attainable by all mankind at all times by rejecting the worship of creation and worshiping One God purely. In every age of human history, and in every place on earth, all people who have believed and followed their prophets had lived this simple practice of faith. They were all Muslims, irrespective of whether they called Islam with a different name in their language. It is not necessary that the name of the religion is Islam. People who followed their prophet from different parts of the world in separate periods of time have variety of ways to express the term man’s submission to the will of God. People from different places have their own distinct languages, and prophets that were sent to them brought Islam in the language that they understand, and so it is only natural that they call Islam with a different name in their language.

Whatever its name was, it signified submission to God’s will and therefore it is Islam and nothing but Islam. Islam’s accessibility to all mankind at all times convincingly support Islam’s claim that from the beginning of time, in whichever place it was taught, and whatever language it was expressed, Islam alone is, and always has been, the universal religion preached by all the prophets of God. Its appeal is for the whole of humanity, and anyone, born at any place, and at any point in time can become a Muslim because Islam was already been in existence since the time of Adam.

All prophets who have appeared from time to time brought the message of Islam. They were born on separate periods of time and came with different forms of commandments sent by God to guide and govern people, but the essence of their teachings were the same – the surrender of one’s will to God. Allah had sent us prophets who all taught the same religion:
{“He (Allah) has ordained for you the same religion (Islam) which He ordained for Noah, and that which We revealed to you (Muhammad), and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus”} (Qur’an 42:13).
After the creation of the first man – Adam, only one message has been repeatedly delivered to mankind throughout the history of humanity. Thus, to remind people about it and bring them back on track, prophets and messengers including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally Muhammad were sent to convey only one message, the message of submitting oneself to the will of God, which is translated in Arabic as Islam. The pure essence of the beliefs and teachings that were revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad are the same as God taught to all the other prophets of the past.
Islam – the pure submission to and worship of God alone – was the religion of all prophets since the time of Adam. However, after the coming of Prophet Muhammad, there is a further distinction that needs to be made. Before the time of Prophet Muhammad, one could say that they were many “Islam”. That is, each nation had their prophet, followed their teachings and was on the right path of Islam. But at the same time, if a new prophet would come to them, they will have to follow that new prophet. God sends a new prophet to either reveal new commandments applicable to the people, or to bring them back to the right path after they had deviated from the teachings of the previous prophet over the passage of time. Thus, after the time of Prophet Muhammad, since he is the last of the prophets, there is only one acceptable manner of worshiping and submitting to God.
All the Prophets, from the first to the last brought the same message: to worship Allah alone without partners. In our time, this message still remains, in the form of the Qur’an and the life-example of the last prophet. This is the only path that today can truly be called submitting oneself to the will of God as taught by prophets of the past. Today, the only option left to be on the path of Islam and follow the way of all the earlier prophets is by following Prophet Muhammad.
God’s messengers had been raised among every people, and that they all conveyed essentially that same religion which Prophet Muhammad brought. Muhammad was the last in the series of prophets since the time of Adam. All the prophets of God – from Adam to Muhammad – have brought one and the same religion of Islam. Although the Divine Message that Allah revealed to each prophet differed in form to suit the needs of the community to which he was sent, but the identifying nature of the religion is the same – the principle of Tawheed. The only thing that distinguishes Prophet Muhammad from all other prophets is that the prophets of the past came with the Divine message of Islam in its different forms that suits to a particular people in a certain place and for a specific periods of time, whereas the Last Prophet brought the Divine Message of Islam in its Last Form for the whole of humanity and for all time to come.
Prophet Muhammad did not bring something new, he only brought the same message that was also brought by the prophets that came before him. And a person can become a Muslim and follow Islam even before Prophet Muhammad’s time because Islam was already been in existence since the time of Adam. Islam has had existed since Adam’s time. A Muslim doesn’t necessarily mean a follower of Prophet Muhammad, the reality is that there are people who were true believers in God and His message even before the time of Muhammad, and each and every one of them is labeled a Muslim – a person who submits his will to the will of God according to the teachings of the prophets.
Prophet Muhammad’s message was the same as that was conveyed by prophets of the past in different periods of time. All of them came with one message – the message of Islam. The word Islam is the name of the central principle of the religion, and that is submission of man’s will to the will of God. And anyone who does so is a Muslim, regardless of whether he had or she had lived in the time of Noah, David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, or Adam. Whoever submits their will to God according to the teachings of the prophets – as they originally taught them – then that person is a Muslim.

(www.towards-understanding-islam.com / 22.05.2011)

Netanyahu is bad for Israel

Netanyahu’s claim regarding the non-defensible 1967 borders was true prior to 1967, it is nothing but hogwash today.  In the 1960’s when Israel was a young state without the military might that it has today an argument could be made that there was in fact an existential threat to Israel from its neighbors who refused to recognize Israel, negotiate or make peace.  The narrow neck of Israel 14 miles wide between Tulkarm and Netanya was a point where the country could have been cut in half.  There was a formidable Jordanian army with an air force and artillery.  The Jordanians put their army under the command of the UAR of Egypt and Syria in 1967.

But after Israel won the 1967 six days war and decimated the armies and air forces of Egypt and Syria and conquered the West Bank, the threat was no longer there.

Since then Israel has amassed the most powerful military might in the region.  Israel is at peace with Jordan.  The future Palestinian state will be a non-militarized state.  The Palestinians will have no air force and no artillery.  What kind of military threat will Israel face that make the 1967 borders non-defensible?  Will the Palestinians cut Israel in half with John Deere tractors?  Will they throw cucumbers at the Israeli soldiers?  What force is supposed to be used that will divide Israel in  half?  Netanyahu must have also forgotten that Israel has peace with Jordan. Israel has full satellite imagery of the West Bank.  The Israeli air force has 100% control of the skies above and the ability to deliver a fully armed combat fighter from any place in Israel (and Palestine) to any place in Israel (and Palestine) within 2 minutes.  So who is he fooling?

The real problem is that since 1967 Israel has put 500,000 Israelis over the green line. The issue is a “land grab” and  not “defensible borders”.  But since Netanyahu cannot sell a land grab to the international community to enable settlers which are viewed illegal by international law to be able to remain under Israeli sovereignty, he has invented the defensible border idea.  What reasonable country would oppose the idea of Israel having defensible borders?

Netanyahu is lying and he must be called on his lies.  Enough of these stupid reasons for not making peace.

Netanyahu is endangering the future of Israel.  Netanyahu is bad for the Jews!

(Facebook / 22.05.2011)

Italy: First Italian food halal supplier

Italy: First Italian food halal supplier


Via AKI:

Italy’s first-ever ‘halal’ supplier has opened for business in Italy’s northern city of Bologna, selling meals prepared according to Islamic principles to restaurants and canteens in Italy and abroad.

“Integration is also being able to eat as one should and to be at peace with God,” Hamza Piccardo, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Piccardo, an Italian convert to Islam, is the director of the ‘Tre Alfieri Halal‘, which is based in Bologna, a renowned gastronomic centre.

“Our new company wants to be a triumph of integration: to combine Italy’s great cuisine and Islam’s rules without losing the flavours of the former and the spiritual rigour of the latter,” he said.

(islamineurope.blogspot.com / 22.05.2011)

Jerusalem police close alleged Hamas office

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Jerusalem police said on Sunday that they had closed an East Jerusalem community center, adding that detentions would likely be made because the organization had violated a closure order.

Police spokeswoman Luba Simmari said detectives closed the premises of the Heritage Committee in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, which she accused of being affiliated with Hamas, the Islamist political party which controls the government in the Gaza Strip.

The party runs hundreds of community organizations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“It is the intention of the police to arrest suspects responsible for reopening it,” she told AFP. “It was run by Hamas… Hamas is forbidden to work in East Jerusalem.”

Neighbors said that the two-story building was also used for prayers.

An eyewitness said that police welded its doors shut.

Israel considers Hamas a “terrorist organization” and prohibits any activities run by the party to take place in territory it controls.

The Palestinian Authority is also prohibited from carrying out official activities.

(www.maannews.net  / 22.05.2011)

Change Is Coming

For his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama went on and on about change. The world was looking forward to having the first black American President, which would indicate that black people have been truly accepted into society. He has even won a Nobel Peace Prize, for doing nothing whatsoever.

Back to the subject of change, his recent speech regarding the Middle East was a huge shock to the likes on Benjamin Netanyahu. The fact that he so much as recognised the 1967 borders would most likely make Netanyahu burn inside, which is interesting as he is due to speak to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Sadly but unsurprisingly, he refused to allow Palestine its own post within the United Nations as mentioned here. The fact that he has so much as recognised Palestine somewhat is a huge step for a nation who has watertight relations with Israel.

Funnily enough, he has finally commented on the Arab spring, though failing to mention what exactly he will do to stop civilians dying. Of course, Syria does not have oil so there is no need for military intervention there. What is also interesting is how he is now openly siding with the people protesting, albeit via words only. What his speech should have been, has been eloquently put by Robert Fisk and can be read here.

Lastly, the University of London Union (ULU) have voted to boycott Israel via the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). God willing, this shall have a huge affect on the many institutions of higher learning, which shall be positive for the Palestinians.

All of this has been while thousands of Palestinians marked the 63rd anniversary of Al Nakbah (The Catastrophe), when the Zionist terrorists forcibly removed around 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. All they did was simply march back into Palestine and indeed, many have become martyrs for justice. The Zionists have all this amazing technology and weaponry, yet they fear the powerless beast when he is awake. For all those who say political action, protesting and lobbying is not productive, ingrain these events into your mind, for today you are mistaken. By God’s will, it is only a matter of time when the injustice upon these people is removed. We must be persistent in our struggle to remove injustice, as was our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Change does not come overnight, but can take years: Our Prophet (peace be upon him) took 23 years in which to cause a total change from the darkness of oppression into the light of justice. It may not be for us to see the change but at least we can plant the seeds of change for a better tomorrow and see the plant of revolution in the afterlife. Indeed, Allah says in the Quran 16:90-

“Verily, Allah enjoins, justice and goodness, and giving (help) to kith and kin and forbids indecencies, all that is prohibited and all kinds of oppression. He admonishes you, that you may take heed.”

(www.mpacuk.org/story / 22.05.2011)

Jihad: A Pursuit of Knowledge

Let me introduce you to 2 important Egyptians.

Meet 15 year old Omar Othman, he met Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in Cairo recently. Omar Othman is doing his masters now in Mathematics.

Meet the smartest kid in Egypt, 9 year old Mahmoud Wael Mahmoud is the talk of the town. His IQ score is that of a genius. He might join the Guinness Book of world records inshAllah. His parents are both doctors and he has two elder sisters. Part of being a genius is the atmosphere he is living in. Mahmoud wants to be either a doctor like his parents or a software programmer. Microsoft Egypt is interested in him, already.

May God help Muslims achieve ihsan (excellence) in every field of science, business and voluntary work to contribute to the progress of humanity and civilisation. The first command given, is Iqra which means read or seek knowledge.

Islam is the religion of science, knowledge, entrepreneurship and progress.

Do your scientific jihad for Islam. Dedicate your life to Islam by dedicating your life to science. Change the world with your accomplishments.

Make Muslims and Islam proud of you. Make the whole world proud of you.

Make knowledge the pursuit of your life. This is your Jihad, yes, your Jihad.

It is your Jihad as a parent to raise the most successful of children. This is your Jihad to gift the world with the best of progeny.

If you are a parent, please don’t let Islam down, please help your children achieve their full potential. You can adopt a child and help it achieve its full potential. Maybe you can help and advise parents and families around you to raise successful children.

Do everything you can to help Muslims achieve the Islamic core value of ihsan (excellence). A Muslim man or woman shouldn’t be average or mediocre. A Muslim should strive to be the best in every field of human endeavour.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believer is like rain, wherever he goes is goodness.”

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “When a man dies, his acts come to an end, except in three cases: an ongoing charity, knowledge from which people continue to benefit, and a righteous child who prays for him.”
Sahih Muslim

For some tips to parents read here.

(www.mpacuk.org / 22.05.2011)

Ed van Thijn waarschuwt voor gewenningsfactor PVV

Oud-politicus Ed van Thijn is bezorgd over het gemak waarmee Nederland aan de uitspraken en standpunten van de PVV en Wilders gewend is geraakt. 

“Men vindt dat Wilders’ toon gematigd is sinds hij de VVD-CDA coalitie gedoogt, maar dat is niet juist”, stelt Van Thijn. “Hij zegt nog steeds dezelfde dingen als voorheen maar er is sprake van een gewenningsfactor.”

Daarbij wijst Van Thijn voornamelijk naar de toespraken die Wilders in het New York, Duitsland en Israel hield. “Die waren zeer beledigend voor alle moslims in de wereld.”

Ed van Thijn waarschuwt voor de gevolgen van de gewenning aan de discriminerende toon. “Ik denk aan het antisemitisme in bepaalde wijken van Amsterdam en de moslimhaat die door Nederland rondwaart. Dat laatste is door Europese antiracisme comités jaren geleden al aan
de kaak gesteld. Tegenwoordig haalt men zich daar de schouders bij op.”

Salonfähig

Volgens de oud-burgemeester van Amsterdam hebben de VVD en het CDA de PVV salonfähig gemaakt. “Men bagatelliseert de uitspraken van de PVV om zelf niet in gewetensnood te komen. Zo wordt de partij door anderen opgetild tot een nette partij. Dat is het niet.”

Het stelselmatig blameren, etiketteren en in een hoek zetten van links Nederland vindt Van Thijn de democratie onwaardig. “Een term als linkse kerk vind ik huiveringwekkend maar kennelijk is iedereen er al aangewend. Als PVV’er Bosma schrijft dat Hitler de grondlegger van het socialisme zou zijn haalt hij het bloed onder mijn nagels vandaan.”

Andersom vindt hij de vergelijking tussen Wilders en Hitler ‘even walgelijk’. “De Tweede Wereldoorlog wordt in alle kringen misbruikt. Laten we elkaar bestrijden met de argumenten van vandaag en niet met de misdaden van gister.”

(al-yaqeen.com / 22.05.2011)

International Committe of the Red Cross: Gaza – No end in sight to hardship and despair

20-05-2011 Interview

Mathilde De Riedmatten, deputy head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Gaza, talks about the situation in the coastal enclave and about how ordinary Gazans manage to carry on with their daily lives.

How would you describe the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip today?

The ICRC is concerned about the fact that the 1.5 million people in the Strip are unable to live a normal and dignified life. Almost no one can leave the Gaza Strip, not even to go to the West Bank, where many Gazans have family or previously had work.

Health-care facilities are suffering from the restrictions imposed by Israel on the transfer of medical equipment, building materials and many basic items needed for maintenance. Water and sanitation facilities have been under strain for many decades. The fact that they remain even barely in working order is due to the efforts of certain humanitarian organizations. Buildings that have been in need of repair for several years and the many buildings that were destroyed during the Israeli military operation in Gaza in 2008-2009 cannot be repaired or rebuilt as long as basic building materials, such as concrete, are not allowed into the Gaza Strip in meaningful quantities.

Violence claims civilian lives in the Strip on a regular basis. In recent months, many people have been killed or injured in escalating violence and sometimes even in open hostilities. Security incidents in the area between Gaza and Israel frequently result in loss of life or in destruction of property or livelihoods. We deplore the civilian casualties and continue to remind all parties that civilians must be spared the effects of the hostilities. Every feasible precaution must be taken to avoid civilian casualties.

ICRC staff constantly monitor the situation of civilians, such as farmers and rubble collectors, who have no alternative but to live and work in areas close to Israel. The area along the fence extending 300 metres into Gaza has been declared a no-go zone by the Israel Defense Forces. A far bigger area, extending nearly one kilometre into the Gaza Strip, is considered dangerous because of the Israeli military’s incursions and use of live ammunition. Whenever civilians suffer direct harm in such incidents, we document the cases and raise our concerns bilaterally and confidentially with the parties concerned.

Can you tell us more about the economic situation?

Gaza is more dependent than ever on outside aid. For young people – fully 50 per cent of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are under 18 years of age – there is a crushing lack of prospects, and it is a constant struggle for them to maintain hope in the future.

The strict limits on imports and the almost absolute ban on exports imposed by Israel make economic recovery impossible. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 40 per cent. It will remain ruinously high as long as the economy fails to recover. This difficult situation exacerbates the considerable hardship already caused by the collapse of previously prosperous branches of the economy.

Over the years, access to land suitable for agriculture has been eroded by restrictions imposed in the areas near Israel and the levelling of land and destruction of trees by the Israel Defense Forces. To make matters worse, the high price or even total lack of some farm inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, etc., and the lack of export opportunities have weighed heavily on the primary sector. In addition, many fishermen have lost their livelihood as a result of Israel reducing the area at sea within which it allows fishing to three nautical miles from Gaza’s coastline.

Because Israel retains effective control over the Gaza Strip, in particular by maintaining authority over the movement of people and goods, it must fulfil its obligations under the law of occupation and allow the civilian population to lead as normal a life as possible.

Israel eased the closure in June 2010. Has that had a positive effect on the lives of ordinary people in Gaza?

The restriction on the movement of people out of Gaza remains unchanged. The current Israeli permit system, combined with rigorous controls, means that only people in need of medical attention who fulfil strict security criteria are allowed to leave either through the Rafah crossing into Egypt or through the Erez crossing into Israel. Very few other people are allowed out of Gaza.

The entry of goods into Gaza is also still highly restricted, not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of the particular items allowed. Long delays are frequent. Some goods that are allowed in are so expensive that their availability hardly matters to the vast majority of the population, who could never afford them. Although there has been media coverage of the export of certain cash crops such as carnations and strawberries, the actual level of exports from the Gaza Strip remains close to zero. Imports of construction supplies and raw materials are still mostly banned, even though they are vital to the territory’s infrastructure and economic recovery.

Unless there is political change that results in freedom of movement for Gazans, increased imports of a variety of goods and significant exports, there will be no improvement.

How can the ICRC help mitigate the effects of the closure?

To help families make ends meet, we have developed cash-for-work programmes and launched projects that provide farmers with tools and seedlings to improve crop yields.

We are also doing what we can to make sure that injured and sick people receive proper medical attention by providing support for the emergency services of the Ministry of Health and the Palestine Red Crescent Society. The Society provides pre-hospital emergency care and counselling services alongside the many other humanitarian tasks it performs within the Gaza Strip. The ICRC also provides support for the Artificial Limb and Polio Centre, the only facility of its kind in the Gaza Strip, which treated over a thousand patients in 2010.

Our water and sanitation engineers are focusing their efforts on the treatment of wastewater. At a plant that was recently completed in Rafah, some of the treated wastewater can safely seep into and replenish the aquifer, which remains the only source of clean water in the Gaza Strip. Thanks to the latest upgrades at the plant, treated wastewater could soon be used for agricultural purposes such as irrigating trees.

PHOTOS

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza. Nursery. © ICRC / C. Goin / il-e-01978
June 2010. Northern Gaza Strip. Palestinian children sleep in a tent. The tent was erected after their house was destroyed during the Israeli military operation in 2008/2009. © Reuters / M. Salem
Gaza. A Palestinian woman with a photograph of a relative held in an Israeli jail. © Reuters / I. A. Mustafa
Gazan fishermen have been hard hit by restrictions on the areas in which they are allowed to fish. © ICRC / C. Goin / il-e-01979

Source: ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 22.05.2011)