The Al Nur mosque in Christchurch, where dozens were killed and injured last week. Every human life is precious and sacred, killing one is like triggering a genocide. (Al Quran 5:32)
By: Jamal Kanj, Ph.D.
Were you surprised by Masjid al Noor massacre in Christchurch, New Zeeland? If your answer is yes, I would like to be the first to welcome you to our planet earth. According to FBI records, hate crimes against Muslims have increased by as much as five folds since 2001.
The massacre in New Zealand, or the murders of shop-owners (some were Indian Sikhs suspected of being Muslims) and mosque bombings in the US, or Quebec City mosque massacre and the London van ramming into a crowd of worshippers in 2017. To name just few, these were not abstract singular events, but the outcome of organized virulent campaigns to demonize Muslims in the West.
It is impossible to have constructive discourse on Islamophobia absent of confronting the elephant in the room: Islamophobia is the creation of an unholy alliance between political Zionism and neocons in the West. The depraved alliance made it easy for Islamophobes to normalize Muslim hate and castigate Islam as “radical” religion.
In America, the recent coordinated malicious attacks on Muslim US Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar for questioning Israeli hold on US elected officials, are inseparable from the Islamophobic cultural onslaught vilifying followers of the “demonized” religion and dismissing their views as irreverent and out of touch.
Hordes of Islamophobe predators cast slanderous aspersions on Congresswoman Omar as Anti-Sematic for expressing views on the nation of Israel. The defamatory blackmail label intentionally conflates Anti-Jewish racists—who are for the most part allies of political Zionism—with those who justly criticize the Netanyahu Jewish apartheid regime in Israel.
Throughout the years, political Zionism has successfully perfected this intellectual terrorism tool to silence critique of Israel. Sadly, the same is blindly mimicked by most Jewish leaders, media outlets and Islamophobes to stifle any rational debate on Israel.
It is not mere coincidence that the exact same phrase “radical Islam” is parroted across four continents: Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Hagabee in the US, Scott Morrison and Fraser Anning in Australia, Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten in UK.
Defying centuries old trends to regionalize the English language, it’s most likely that globalizing the same Islamophobic locutions is part of a cheat sheet to debase Islam and hence, promote Islamophobia. Especially since all these pundits have one thing in common, besides uniting an English lexicon, they’re staunch supporters of Israel and political Zionism.
Neocons and political Zionism mantras like “radical Islam” are fodders for Islamophobia in the West. It blames the belief system of more than one billion human beings for the actions of relatively small number of individuals, although this only applies to Muslims.
It’s certain that Benton Tarrant massacre will not be attributed to “radical Christianity.” As no one had implicated “radical Judaism” on the celebrated Jewish terrorist Brauch Goldstein—who used an Israeli army supplied automatic rifle to massacre 29 Palestinian worshipers in 1994. And his tomb became a religious shrine with a plaque that read “To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah, and the nation of Israel”.
Owning to their shared Islamophobic values, anti-Muslim pundits have cultivated unique relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As with his allies in the West, Netanyahu has just entered into unholy alliance with Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of “Jewish Power”―the Israeli Jewish version of the KKK.
Typical of tribal hate, Gvir calls Christians “bloodsucking vampires” and displays a photo in his room of the Jewish copy of the Christchurch terrorist. Gvir, the decedent of a Kurdish immigrant advocates the ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish Native Palestinians from villages and homes their existence predated Gvir’s birth, and certainly before his father immigrated to Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.
Israeli racist Jewish politics had drifted too far, prominent Jewish and international Linguist and Scholar Noam Chomsky has recently reminded us of decades old concerns expressed by renowned Israeli biochemist and polymath, Yeshayahu Leibowitz who described Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as “Judeo-Nazi” in nature. Leibowitz had cautioned his compatriots of the danger in making Israel and Zionism more sacred than Jewish humanist values.
The onus is therefore on mainstream Jewish organizations to make sure “Jewish humanist values” are not defined by Israeli Prime Minister alliance with the Jewish version of the KKK, or with Netanyahu’s Islamophobe allies in the likes of Trump, Morrison, Cruz, Hagabee, Huckabee, Batten …etc.
Mainstream Jewish leaders must stop abusing the “Anti-Semitic” cry to stifle legitimate political debate on Israel’s version of the KKK, or to defend the unholy alliance between political Zionism and Islamophobes in the West.
Else, they risk making the Anti-Semitic label as hollow as the gun barrel that massacred 51 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand.
*Mr Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) an author who had written weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. His recent coauthored book “Bride of the Sea” was published in Germany and Poland. This Op-Ed piece can be published with the author’s permission.
A disappointed Palestinian youth losing hope of life in Gaza
Ali Ahmad had a big dream. But waking up to the harsh reality has made him seek refuge in sleep.
After five and a half years of studying computer engineering, Ahmed graduated full of hope. But the happiness was soon erased as he was shocked by a painful reality. The well-qualified man applied for many jobs, but the result was always negative. He suffers the pain of disappointment. Ali reacted to this anticlimax by disappearing. The young man just gave up and escaped from the dreadful reality to sleep.
Since Ali finished his high school with high grades, his father had worked relentlessly and more to provide him with the necessary needs and university fees.
Ali’s poor family has a limited income. His father receives his salary from the Gaza government— the besieged government by the Israeli occupation for more than 12 years. for the past four years, he’s been receiving only less than half of his salary because of the difficult economic conditions experienced by Gaza and its government in the past 12 years till this day as a result of the Israeli suffocating siege.
Ali’s father favored his son study over providing for his family. He often deprived his family of a lot of things to pay his son’s university fees and other requirements of studying, as he dreamed of seeing his son a great engineer in the future.
Ali challenged many obstacles which stood in his way to completing his university studies. His family’s destitute life put him in a very hard position where he was unable to buy some of his most basic needs for university or provide transportation money. The electricity shortages and the way they affected his study schedule and the overall environment shadowed by the siege all stood like pillars in Ali’s way. Despite all that, Ali persevered and continued in the hope of saving his family from the grinding poverty and achieving his father’s dream
“I haven’t seen Ali for two months, he suddenly disappeared.” A friend of Ali said to his father, “What’s wrong with him? Is he alright?!”, Ali’s father didn’t answer and remained silent unwilling to tell anyone about his son’s pain.
Ali’s New Life
“After I graduated, I used to develop myself by taking additional courses in Computer Engineering in order to enhance my skills for the labor market”, Ali said.
Lately, the circumstances in Gaza have become worse than ever. A lot of companies were liquidated and many people lost their jobs due to the accumulation of debt.
Ali realized that he will not work in his major, so he decided to work in another field. He got a driving license and started working as a taxi driver for two months, but he couldn’t continue for long. majority of young people work as taxi drivers and all of them facing the shortage of work.
He kept searching and laboring to find any other job, k until he realized that he would not able to work in a field other than the field he loves and which he had been studying for more than five years.
Ali became frustrated and desperate!
“I was dreaming to be, but I realized that I was born in a country where I can’t survive. I have no choices, but to seek refuge in sleeping,. I will run away to my bed and try to sleep my worries away. .”
“My dream now is to be dead”, Ali said tearfully.
Ali is now 35-year-old, he couldn’t achieve his dreams, has no basic requirements of living, unmarried, disappointed, and carries one wish in his heart to die.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of statistics for 2018, the unemployment rate in Gaza Strip is 49,1% Making it the highest in the world. Among young people alone, unemployment exceeds 55%. With no prospects in the horizon, the youth of Gaza are left to suffer psychologically and have lost the sense of direction. Any way they turn, they find the doors of the blockade slammed shut in the faces. Like Ali, thousands have suffered when the dreams they had envisaged were killed.
Israel continues to hold a tight grip on the Gaza Strip to suffocate its people and destroy their hopes of a better future. The young people are the most traumatized by this ongoing deprivation and suffering. Many have sought ways out of the enclave to search for a better future, while others wait for a political breakthrough that will save them from a slow death.
Despite the circumstances, Palestinians have endured over 70 years of Israeli occupation war crimes and have stood high. They’ve fought with tooth and nail to hold on to their land, to regain their basic human rights in the hope that coming generations would reap the fruit of their long and unwavering struggle.
It’s been exactly a week since the colonisers of our land, Mr. Netanyahu and his gang of war criminals, decided not to renew the mandate of TIPH, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron whose role has been to observe and report. These observers were volunteers and they come from Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Italy and their job was to observe any violations of the human rights of the Hebronites and report. Not to the United Nations, you understand or to any international body but to the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority and their own governments of course.
The decision was unilateral. But when did Israel take any notice of the Palestinian Authority, the UN or the International Community for that matter.
In answer to a question why he is not renewing the mandate, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he would force the TIPH out of the city, “We will not allow an international force to act against us,” he stated.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who had been urging Netanyahu to scrap the mission, said that TIPH members had “cooperated with extremist organisations and promoted de-legitimisation of Israel.” But Israel, as per usual, does not tolerate anybody that will bring its atrocities and infringements of Palestinian human rights to the world. As such the TIPH had to go.
The Palestinian Authority is warning that Israel is planning to perpetrate a second massacre against Palestinians in the occupied city and take control of the Ibrahimi Mosque. One member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, Osama Al-Qawasmi, said in a statement that the only explanation for the Israeli decision is that it plans to seize the Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque and complete its colonial plan in Hebron.
Those words, ‘second massacre’ fill me with foreboding.The TIPH was formed and stationed in Hebron in the aftermath of the first massacre at Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in 1994 when an American Jewish Extremist settler, Baruch Goldstein mowed down 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Mosque and injured over 130 others.
Their lust for our blood it would seem is unquenchable. Since that first massacre, Hebron, an ancient city with 40,000 inhabitants, has been plagued by a group of extremist and heavily armed Jewish settlers, not dissimilar to Goldstein. They have made the lives of every man, woman and child of Hebron an utter misery. The depths of their depravity in their treatment of the Hebronites are such that no normal human being would ever contemplate, let alone undertake. The aim of these extremist zealots is, of course, to empty Hebron, steal the land, occupy the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque and turn it into a Jewish shrine.
Believe me when I say that during the last week I sat down to write about Hebron on more than four occasions. Each time I was prevented by a torrent of emotion and foreboding. Hebron and I have a long and enduring history.
My late mother was a Hebronite. Her family, the Al Qaisi Clan are still in Hebron and have been there for millennia. My connection to the city and its people did not stop with the death of my late mother. Three of my sisters are married to Hebronites. One in Halhoul, within walking distance from Hebron and the other two in Beit Ummer, a stones throw away. Another sister was the Head Mistress of the girls’ school in another Hebron village, Al Khadir, know to Christians as St George.
Hebron knows my footprint. I have walked all over the city and visited those surrounding villages. I have stopped at my sisters’ homes and spent time in the fields and orchards in the fifties and early sixties before I left Palestine. The last time I visited Hebron with my wife was 9 years ago. Hebron looked and felt like a ghost town. But despite the cruelty and barbarity of the settlers and the Israeli Occupation Forces, the Hebronites are still and will continue to be unbowed. Israel will never prevail. We Palestinians don’t do defeat and that terrifies them.
“Mom, do they bomb residential buildings?, asked one of my daughters in fear. And my response again came in the form of a lie: “No, habibti. They don’t. Don’t be scared.” I stroked her cheek to reassure her.
As a parent, what can I do? I wasn’t sure if there would be other buildings whose residents would receive horrifying calls in the middle of the night to evacuate and run for their lives. It happened before in the bloody 2014 aggression when a thirteen story building was evacuated and leveled to the ground by F-16 missiles. In a matter of seconds, over 50 families lost their homes and all their possessions.
The narrow streets of Gaza are packed with apartment buildings with no space dividing them in many places. This was the case with Al-Yazji building which was targeted by an F-16 with at least two rockets on November 14, 2018.
As I walked down that street every day, I was unaware that this building would soon day be a target of Israeli F-16s. It was four in the morning and the escalation was in full swing.
November 14, 2018, I was in bed in a useless attempt to sleep. Two hours passed without any aerial shelling giving me a sense of temporary yet cautionary calm. My kids managed to sleep until they all suddenly flung out of their beds when they heard the huge explosions. The target was Al-Yazgi building. I remember that it had a kindergarten and used to see kids being led by their teachers off and on the bus and parents coming to pick their kids up. I also remember a store that sold fancy decorative ornaments and a women’s clothes shop beside it.
Now as I go down that same street, the area is cordoned off for debris removal works. It’s not easy to clear off a six-story building that housed at least six families and other institutions with all the furniture, appliances, equipment, etc…
I’ve learned that is life precarious, but to just have your whole life turned upside down because another human being decided to bomb your home suddenly is too extreme to fathom.
After losing so many loved ones, over and over in a repeated vicious cycle of Israeli occupation tyranny and aggression, what is the choice for the Palestinian people? Just as the sun keeps shining every morning, we will go on living. We will continue to call for a life of freedom and dignity. We will continue to call for our legitimate rights to live as other humans around the globe do. We may not live to see the change, but at least when our children look back, they will know that all our efforts paid off in the end.
150 Palestinian prisoners were wounded when Israeli Prison Service officers stormed the Ofer military prison near Ramallah on January 21. A day later, thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza rallied in support of the prisoners who, in response to Israeli repression, staged a mass hunger strike.
The latest ordeal was instigated by the Israeli government when Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan declared on January 2 that the ‘party is over’, meaning that Israel will ‘worsen’ already horrific conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, there are nearly 5,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 230 children and 54 women. 481 prisoners are held without trial, governed by an unlawful Israeli practice known as ‘administrative detention.’
One certainly does take the Israeli minister’s comments seriously, despite the fact that the conditions under which thousands of Palestinians are held in Israeli jails – which itself is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – are already at a stage that can only be described as inhumane – they fail the minimum standards of international and humanitarian laws.
Palestinian prisoners are amply able to describe Israeli prison conditions, having experienced every form of physical and psychological torture, and spent years, sometimes decades, fending for their humanity every hour of every day.
Three freed Palestinian prisoners shared their stories, with the hope that the world would understand the true context of Erdan’s latest ‘plan’ and the ongoing crackdowns on Palestinian prisoners in Ofer and elsewhere.
‘They detained my family’
Shadi Farah was merely 12 when he was arrested from his home in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. He was accused of trying to kill Israeli soldiers with a knife they found at his house.
I was arrested on 30 December 2015, when I was only 12-years-old and was released on 29 November 2018. At the time, I was the youngest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.
My interrogation took place in the Maskoubiah prison in Jerusalem, specifically in Cell No. 4. After days of physical torture, sleep deprivation and severe beating, they imprisoned my whole family – my mom and dad and sisters and brothers. They told me that my family was held captive because of me and they would only be released if I confessed to my crimes. They swore at me with profanities I cannot repeat. They threatened to do unspeakable things to my mom and sisters.
After each torture session, I would return to my cell so desperate to sleep. But then soldiers would wake me up by slapping my face, kicking me with their boots and punching me in the stomach.
I love my family, and when they used to prevent them from visiting me, it broke my heart.
‘I Was Tortured in Cell #9’
Wafa’ Samir Ibrahim al-Bis was born in the Jablaiya refugee camp in Gaza. She was 16-years-old when she was detained on May 20, 2005. She was sentenced to 12-years in prison after being convicted of attempting to carry out a suicide mission targeting Israeli soldiers. She was released in 2011 in a prisoner swap between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel.
I was only 16 when I decided to wear an explosive belt and blow myself up among Israeli occupation soldiers. It was all I could do to avenge Mohammed al-Durrah. When I saw him huddling by his father’s side, as soldiers showered them both with bullets, I felt powerless. That poor child. But I was arrested, and those who helped me train for my mission were killed three months after my detention.
I was tortured for years inside the infamous Cell #9, a torture chamber they designated for people like me. I was hanged from the ceiling and beaten. They put a black bag on my head as they beat and interrogated me for many hours and days. They released dogs and mice in my cell. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. They stripped me naked and left me like that for days on end. They didn’t allow me to meet with a lawyer or even receive visits from the Red Cross.
They had me sleep on an old, dirty mattress that was as hard as nails. I was in solitary confinement for two years. I felt like I was buried alive. Once they hanged me for three days nonstop. I screamed as loud as I could, but no one would untie me.
When I was in the Ramleh prison, I felt so lonely. Then one day, I saw a little cat walking among the cells, so I kept throwing her food so that she would be my friend. Eventually, she started coming inside my cell and would stay with me for hours. When the guards discovered that she was keeping me company, they slit her throat in front of me. I cried for her more than I cried for my own fate.
A few days later, I asked the guard for a cup of tea. She came back and said, “stick your hand out to grab the cup”. I did, but instead she poured boiling water on my hand. Third-degree burns have scarred my hand to this day. I need help treating my hand. I cry for Israa’ Ja’abis, whose whole body has been burned yet she remains in an Israeli jail.
I often think of all the women prisoners I left behind.
‘My mother died proud of me’
Fuad Qassim al-Razam was born in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. He spent 31 years in prison.
I have experienced both psychological and physical torture in Israeli jails, which forced me to confess to things I did and didn’t do.
The first phase of detention is usually the most difficult because the torture is most intense and the methods are most brutal. I was denied food and sleep and I was left hanging from the ceiling for hours. At times I was left standing in the rain, naked, tied to a pole, with a bag on my head. I would be left in that condition the whole day, while occasionally getting punched, kicked and hit with sticks by soldiers.
I was forbidden from seeing my family for years, and when I was finally allowed to see my mother, she was dying. An ambulance brought her to Beir Al-Saba’ prison, and I was taken in shackles to see her. She was in terrible health and could no longer speak. I remember the tubes coming out of her hands and nose. Her arms were bruised and blue from where the needles entered her frail skin.
I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her, so I read some Quran to her before they took me back to my cell. She died 20 days later. I know she was proud of me. When I was released, I was not allowed to read verses from the Quran by her grave as I was deported to Gaza immediately after the prisoner exchange in 2011.
When I met Ghassan Najjar, in the WestBank village of Burin, I gained the impression of speaking with a young man considerably older than the 26-year-old before me. As he pointed out during our conversation, under Israeli occupation children have to grow upfast. It was in 2000 when Ghassan, aged 10, first came into contact with the Israelioccupiers. He was helping his father, Zidan, and other members of his family in their apple orchard on a ridge overlooking the village when they were attacked by a group of armed men from the nearby Brakha settlement who wanted the land for themselves. They shot Ghassan’s cousin in the leg while Israeli soldiers looked on.
Following a number of similar settler attacks the army prohibited Zidan from accessing his orchard, so he obtained a court ruling that confirmed his right to work on his land. However, the army promptly invalidated the ruling by declaring the land to be a closed military zone, after which the 1,500 apple trees and a well were destroyed. Zidan and hisfamily were barred from entry permanently. It was during that time that the army also seized 65 dunams (16 acres) of land What’s left of the apple orchard on top of a hill near Brakha belonging to Ghassan’s mother.
It was unsurprising, then, that by the age of 15, Ghassan and other local boys would throw stones at the sight of soldiers for which he was arrested and charged. Ghassan was sentenced to six months in the juvenile section of HaSharon Prison in northern Israel [contravening the Third Geneva Convention, Article 4, which states: “protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein].
Four years later, Ghassan was charged again, this time accused of subversive activities against the Israeli state. For organising community events, such as flying kites decorated with Palestinian flags, and taking part in demonstrations to support local farmers experiencing settler attacks and land seizures, Ghassan was sentenced to one year and eight months in Megiddo Prison, again in northern Israel.
So when Israeli soldiers, using tear gas and stun bombs, attacked Burin Boys School on 26 August 2014(1), Ghassan, together with other villagers did not hesitate to rally in support of the teachers and pupils. Aged 24, Ghassan was the youngest in the group. The scene on their arrival was of Israeli soldiers surrounding the headmaster, Ibrahim Amur and his senior staff while the terrified pupils were locked in their classrooms with their teachers. Ibrahim, his senior teachers and the villagers told the soldiers to leave. They were ignored. “One soldier shouted to me that I was a ‘son of a bitch’,” Ghassan told me, “but I ignored him. Then I saw him, together with some of the other soldiers, move in to arrest Ibrahim. Instinctively, I pushed the soldier away and then ran off. But the soldiers had no problems in identifying me.”
The wheels were thus set in motion for Ghassan’s third prison sentence. That night, soldiers visited the homes of his brother, Abdullah, and his cousin, Zaid, who were not accused of any offence. Both young men were badly beaten and brought to Ghassan at his home where he lived with his parents. There they were ordered never to see Ghassan again.
Next, the soldiers set about vandalising the family home while shouting threats and insults at Ghassan’s elderly parents, after which they took him to a military post in nearby Huwwara. There, he was beaten so badly that he lost consciousness and was rushed to a hospital in Israel, near Tel Aviv where he Ghassan’s home after soldiers’ visit remained for two weeks. Because of laws prohibiting Palestinians living in the West Bank from freely entering Israel,his parents and other family members were not allowed to visit him. “On being discharged from hospital,” continued Ghassan, “I was taken to an interrogation centre in Israel near Petah Tikva which is run by Shin Bet [the internal Israeli intelligence services] and it was here I received the worst treatment. They wanted to break me, but didn’t succeed.” For two months, Ghassan was kept in isolation in a windowless basement cell measuring about 2m x 1.5m. “There was an electric light on continuously. I lost all track of time, not knowing whether it was day or night.”
The interrogations started. Ghassan told me the officials wanted to know names of friends and associates. He described how he was seated in a chair with his hands tied behind his back for one to two days, allowed to visit the bathroom for five minutes every 6 hours. On other occasions he was laid handcuffed to a bed with his arms and legs outstretched. Despite the stifling heat, he was often refused permission to shower. Still in custody, Ghassan spent the next 14 months in Megiddo Prison. Here, the prisoners were divided into blocks of 120 prisoners according to their political affiliation. Ghassan’s block was for members of the Peoples’ Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Every block contained cells, each holding ten prisoners and equipped with electric rings for cooking. “The daily routine at Megiddo was crushing,” said Ghassan. “Prisoners remained in their cells during the day except for two hours in the morning and evening when they walked up and down corridors. Ten prisoners a day from each block were allowed to play sport for an hour, which they took turns in doing.” Prisoners received 400 shekels (£86) a month from the Palestinian Authority for food either from the canteen, run at a profit by the Israeli company Dadash(2), or from a shop for prisoners to prepare themselves. The canteen was expensive and the food inadequate and of poor quality: “For breakfast we would be given a single egg and a packet of crisps which cost ten shekels (£2.17).” So prisoners prepared their own meals. However, it is the prison guards that give Megiddo its bad reputation. “We were subjected constantly to taunts, threats and beatings by prison guards. They would attack us at whim and pump tear gas into our cells, causing us virtually to suffocate in the crowded, enclosed space, then waiting for 3 minutes or so before providing oxygen. I was put into solitary confinement on about 14 occasions. I believe the prison authorities disliked me because I initiated classes for my cellmates in Palestinian history and literacy. For them education was a threat.”
About a month into his detention at Megiddo, Ghassan first met his lawyer. Six months later, his mother received permission to visit her son, assisted by the Red Cross. From then on she could visit him quite regularly, although his father, aged over 70, who had also been imprisoned by the Israelis on a number of occasions, had to wait longer and subsequently was only permitted visits every 6-7 months. After Megiddo, Ghassan was transferred to a punishment prison, Hadarim, also in northern Israel where he spent two weeks in isolation. Ghassan believes it was because he threatened to go on hunger strike that he was moved quickly to Gilbo’a Prison (again in northern Israel) where he stayed for a year until his release. It was while he was at Gilbo’a, 18 months after his arrest, that Ghassan’s trial finally took place at Salem Military Court. “I was accused of attacking the soldier at the boys’ school and of subversive activity,” he explained.
The District Army Commander gave evidence as well as the ‘ravshatz’ [security officer] from Yitzhar (another violent(3) religious settlement overlooking Burin) who had not been present at the school. He alleged Ghassan had attacked him on a number of occasions previously. Ghassan said it was on account of the ravshatz’s allegations that he was sentenced to 26 months and ordered to pay 7,000 shekels (approximately £1,520) to the soldier he pushed. The family paid the fine, against Ghassan’s wishes.
The ravshatz from Yitzhar talking to soldiers Ghassan described Gilbo’a as “a place of learning, a school for change rather than a place for becoming embittered.” Prisoners of all political persuasions, except for Hamas, lived together in one unit. They set up a daily routine consisting of classes, two hours reading, written tasks and sport in addition to preparing meals and watching TV. There were courses in Palestinian history, culture and crafts, economics and the his tory of colonisation and liberation struggles of other countries. Prisoners taught each other and Ghassan proudly showed me the certificate he was awarded for teaching Palestinian history. Similarly, students were awarded diplomas for courses they had attended.
“It was through the education I received in Gilbo’a that I learnt not all Jews were Zionists,” he explained, “and that my anger against our treatment by the Israelis and the Occupation should not be directed against all Jews, many of whom oppose what is happening to us.” It was also in Gilbo’a that Ghassan first went on hunger strike as an act of solidarity with Bilal Kayed, a Palestinian activist(4) who, after spending 14 years in Israeli prisons, on the day of his release was imprisoned again without charge.
Disobedience tactics accompanied the initial call for Bilal’s release: “In every cell during morning roll call, prisoners would give Bilal Kayed’s name instead of their own.” The hunger strike started on 17 July 2015. “The evening before, we had received the coded message ‘Freedom awaits you’, meaning the strike would commence the following day,” explained Ghassan.
Ghassan said that within days of starting the strike, he and another prisoner were put in isolation – a small windowless cell where the temperature often rose to 45oC which made his skin peel. On the sixteenth day, guards took away his underwear. He had no right to a shower during the 21 days of his strike. Most of the hunger strikers in Gilbo’a ended their action at 8.00pm on 7 August, following instructions from the unit organiser. However, Israeli officials forbade him from seeing Ghassan who was given the news of the strike’s end by a prison guard. Ghassan, therefore, refused to stop, adding that he would stop drinking water too. The strike organiser was called promptly to his cell.
Recovery following the strike was hard: the prison authorities did not provide salt and the prisoners were given cold water to drink, which they could not digest. Ghassan described how they resorted to drinking warm water from the bathroom. Ghassan was released in September 2016 and returned home to a big celebration. But there were restrictions: for six months, he could only to walk in the streets around his house in the outskirts of Burin. However, this did not deter him from resuming his rôle as a community worker and activist. The Bilal Al-Najjar community centre which Ghassan had founded in 2007 was vandalised by Israeli soldiers in 2009 and 2010 and totally trashed in July 2013. Ten volunteers were beaten and twenty arrested. So since his release Ghassan has had to start afresh. He has formed the Target Association for Rural Development-Burin which holds classes, meetings and lectures, mainly for young people. With friends, he has also created a permaculture centre. In July 2017, despite personal threats he resurrected the kite festival attended by crowds of children and young people from the village and elsewhere. During the afternoon, soldiers and settlers appeared on a nearby hillside, exploding grenades(5).
Bilal al Najjar Community Centre after army raid
“Aren’t you worried about being arrested again?” I asked Ghassan. He replied in his customary defiant manner: “I’m not afraid of arrest. Nothing will stop me from dedicating my life to fighting for a free Palestine. If I’m sent to prison again, so be it.”
Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer.” [Ibn Majah]
It is clear from this hadith that the believing men and women are required to seek knowledge.
We have to capitalize on the potential of our valuable women; we should assist and support them in their pursuit for excellence in their careers and in their studies.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” [Abu Dawud]
Our Muslim women are contributing and achieving in many valuable ways, we have to encourage, support and help them in achieving more. The more our women achieve and excel, the more our Ummah (Muslim nation) will be revived. Our women are not only half of our Ummah, they are also the mothers who shape future generations. Prophet Mohammad PBUH valued them and gave them a special status.
Women now have higher IQ Scores than men, as researchers confirm. Women are a precious gift to humanity and a source of kindness and compassion. Prophet Muhammad PBUH said: “Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.” (Ahmad, Nasai).
A man came to the Prophet PBUH and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Your mother.’ The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your mother.’ The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your father.’ (Bukhari, Muslim). There are many more verses and hadith confirming the value of mothers in Islam.
Prophet Mohammad PBUH said: “A believer is like rain, wherever he goes, he brings goodness.”
Allah confirms in the Quran, that men and women were created from a single soul, thus emphasizing the equality and appreciation that Islam has for women.
“He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)…” [Noble Quran 7:189]
“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to their actions.” [Noble Quran 16:97, see also 4:124]
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said that the Messenger of Allah PBUH, said, “No one has three daughters or three sisters and is good to them but that he will enter the Garden (paradise).”
Musa ibn ‘Ali reported that the Prophet PBUH said, “Shall I show you the greatest sadaqa (or one of the greatest forms of sadaqa)?” He replied, “Yes, indeed, Messenger of Allah!” He went on, “To provide for your daughter when she is returned to you and you are her sole source of provision.” Sadaqa means charity.
A moment of introspection, have you supported and empowered the women in your life? Have you helped your sister reach her full potential? Have you helped your wife make her dreams come true? Have you helped your mother and taken some of her responsibilities off her shoulders? Do you treat women with the level of respect and appreciation that Islam requires? Have you reached out to do more for the women in your community?
To learn more, you get free ebooks for muslims or non-muslims or new muslims in many languages from the Conveying Islamic Message Society’s website:
You can work for Allah in different ways: through your career, your voluntary work, your activism in defence of justice and humanity.
The follower, Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for Allah for 43 years. He established the city of Qirawan and was one of the pioneers who introduced Islam to North Africa.
Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) forgave his enemies
Oqba Ibn Nafea’s father was a staunch enemy of Islam and Muslims but the Prophet forgave him. The mercy of the Prophet (peace be upon him) even extended to those who brutally killed and then mutilated the body of his uncle Hamzah.
Quran 41:34 “Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with what is better. Then he, between whom and you there was hatred, will become as though he was a bosom friend.”
The Prophet’s act of forgiveness touched Oqba’s father’s heart so deeply, that he dedicated his son Oqba to Allah. He sent his son to be raised by an important companion of the Prophet PBUH. An important lesson to be learnt here is that if you committed a sin, don’t despair. Instead, do good deeds that outweigh your sin and ask for forgiveness.
The Messenger of Allah PBUH said: “Fear Allah wherever you may be, trail a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out, and treat the people with good character.” [at-Tirmidhi stated as Hadith Hasan]
Excellence and hard work are important Islamic values
Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for the cause of Allah throughout his life. He discovered his talents and utilized them in service of his cause. He became an expert on North Africa. His father put him on the right path. We should find ways of putting children and youngsters in our circle of influence on the right path, through excellent education and by being good role models.
Are you going to inspire your children and those in your circle of influence to dedicate their lives and work for justice, humanity and Islam? Are you doing all you can do to change the world by being the best influence possible on those around you? Are you inspiring and motivating others? Are you praising and appreciating those who are trying to leave a positive impact, no matter how small? Women have a special place in Islam. Are you acknowledging, praising and motivating the wonderful women in your life and making them feel appreciated?
It may be that the early trials are not always very fruitful, but without the early trials we wouldn’t have great achievements. Pioneers are always appreciated because they lay down the foundations of what will later become great successes.
Take the initiative, be creative and take calculated risks!
Are you a pioneer? Do you always take the initiative? Or are you passive and just follow the crowd? Taking risks if necessary is something commendable, but taking unnecessary risks and making impulsive decisions are attributes that can be counterproductive.
Pioneers are not afraid of failure. They understand that failure is part of the process. They understand that learning from failure is an essential part of building success.
Thomas Alva Edison said:“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Don’t be afraid to try and don’t give up easily.
Change direction or change career if necessary
If you came to the realization that you are leading your life on the wrong path, you can stop and change your path. It might mean making sacrifices, but you have to be strong enough to lead your life, not let your life lead you.
Islam is not just rituals, it is a way of life.
Are you truly ready to join the path of Allah? Some people think that praying, fasting, paying zakat, wearing the hijab, hajjare enough. Rituals of worship are not everything in Islam. Islam is much deeper. What have you done for humanity? What have you done for science and knowledge? What kind of activism have you participated in? What injustice have you opposed or prevented? What have you done to raise awareness about the plight of innocents around the world? What voluntary work have you done? What have you done for your community or for your neighbourhood?
Your role is bigger than just looking after your family
Your role in Islam extends far beyond your duty towards your family and friends. You have a responsibility towards the progress and advancement of humanity. You have a duty to stand up for justice against Muslim and non Muslim oppressors. You have a duty to spread goodness and solidarity to all people of conscience, whether Muslim or non Muslim. You have a duty to enjoin good and oppose evil in every field of life.
You may really want to work for Allah, supporting justice and humanity, but don’t know how to. You have to take the initiative and discover your talents and find the appropriate channels that will help you work in the most effective way for the cause. Just don’t sit and wait and be a bystander. Get involved!
Quran 6:160: “Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [to his credit], and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged”.
Quran 13:22: “And those who are patient, seeking the countenance of their Lord, and establish prayer and spend from what We have provided for them secretly and publicly and prevent evil with good – those will have the good consequence of [this] home”
This article is adapted from Dr. Amr Khaled’s lecture. Dr. Amr Khaled is an Egyptian televangelist. His work influenced Arab youth and has contributed to the calls for change in the Middle East.
Creative activists can be described as: ‘These are the changemakers. People who turn their ideas into action. A Creative Activist is any individual or organization who uses media, the arts, and technology to create awareness of important issues in the world and affect positive change.’
I would disagree with the description above, simply because creative activists don’t limit their creativity to using arts, media and technology to create awareness. They also use ingenuity and originality to convey their message, to a sometimes unwilling and skeptical audience.
Nick Darken wrote, commenting on this video that is worth watching: ‘‘The Return of Dictator Ben Ali’ saw one huge, imposing portrait of the former dictator reinstated in a square in newly freed Tunisia. The response was emotional. As the crowd tore down the poster in anger, the message underneath reminded people to use their vote at the upcoming elections as only half the population were expected to turn out.”
Some creative volunteers found another way to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies, on the streets of New York City. The BDS movement provides a prime example of creativity and spontaneity. Attendees of the Israel Jazz Festival in NYC at the Guggenheim were treated to free water bottles labeled “Israel” on one side and the words “Apartheid since 1948” on the other.
“And while they (governments/authorities) can claim supremacy in force, finance and media ownership, the one thing they definitely cannot offer is creativity, freedom and innovation. That is why the young generation is using these specific tools to alter the rules of the game, leaving the regimes unable to keep pace, at least in terms of winning the audience.
In one instance, hundreds of young protestors took to the streets raising blank signs, dozens of white boards with absolutely nothing written on them, yet the security forces were exasperated by that and started shooting and beating people. For everyone watching, including some supporters of the regime, it was really silly and stupid; it was a classic example of creativity winning over force.
Take Kafranbel for instance, this is a very small village in Syria, unknown even to the average Syrian and located in a province ironically called “the forgotten cities”, these people grow olives, and recently ideas! Every week, a few dozens of the Kafranbel inhabitants brainstorm and create the most incredibly creative and powerful punch lines, they write them on paper panels, go to the grove, photograph themselves with a phone and upload the images to Facebook, as simple as this may seem, it is literarily revolutionizing the nation. Just to share with you some of these punch lines:
– We demand that school uniforms include a helmet, body armor and gas mask. – Forgive me my love; I mentioned your name in the interrogation. – Only in Syria, to get to heaven… just cross the street.”
Marianne Torres, an inspiring American activist, told me of her own small victory:
“We learned that Madeline Albright was coming to Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I was still mightily outraged about Albright’s words and continued “service” in the American government so I just decided that if no one else could do anything to expose her crimes, I would.
I had a t-shirt made with her infamous quote on the back “500,000 Iraqi children killed by U.S. sanctions. Madeleine Albright says, ‘…The price — we think the price is worth it.’, wrote up the quote and other ugliness from her on a handout and passed them out at her speaking engagement and then did a double sided sheet with William Blum’s piece on her on one side and the absurd list of embargoed items on the other side, and passed them out both outside, and inside the auditorium. Most people didn’t read my shirt, but assumed the flyer was something from the University, so a whole lot of people sat and read the awful truth before she spoke.
Imagine my surprise when people who were excited to see this woman asked me if they could buy a t-shirt like mine! They obviously had not actually read it but assumed I was there in support of her. I’m sure they changed their mind after they read the paper I handed to them – and several hundred others.”
We all have our own creative side. Have you found and explored yours? Have you thought of new ways to help the cause? Do you have any ideas that can help serve justice, humanity and peace in the world? Shouldn’t you use your creativity to fulfill your Islamic duty to enjoin good and forbid evil?
It’s time for Israel to accept that as an occupied people, Palestinians have a right to resist – in every way possible
Long ago, it was settled that resistance and even armed struggle against a colonial occupation force is not just recognised under international law but specifically endorsed.
In accordance with international humanitarian law, wars of national liberation have been expressly embraced, through the adoption of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (pdf), as a protected and essential right of occupied people everywhere.
Finding evolving vitality in humanitarian law, for decades the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) – once described as the collective conscience of the world – has noted the right of peoples to self-determination, independence and human rights.
Indeed, as early as 1974, resolution 3314 of the UNGA prohibited states from “any military occupation, however temporary”.
In relevant part, the resolution not only went on to affirm the right “to self-determination, freedom and independence […] of peoples forcibly deprived of that right,[…] particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes or other forms of alien domination” but noted the right of the occupied to “struggle … and to seek and receive support” in that effort.
The term “armed struggle” was implied without precise definition in that resolution and many other early ones that upheld the right of indigenous persons to evict an occupier.
This imprecision was to change on December 3, 1982. At that time UNGA resolution37/43 removed any doubt or debate over the lawful entitlement of occupied people to resist occupying forces by any and all lawful means. The resolution reaffirmed “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.
A palpable illusion
Though Israel has tried, time and time again, to recast the unambiguous intent of this precise resolution – and thus place its now half-century-long occupation in the West Bank and Gaza beyond its application – it is an effort worn thin to the point of palpable illusion by the exacting language of the declaration itself. In relevant part, section 21 of the resolution strongly condemned “the expansionist activities of Israel in the Middle East and the continual bombing of Palestinian civilians, which constitute a serious obstacle to the realization of the self-determination and independence of the Palestinian people”.
Never ones to hesitate in rewriting history, long before the establishment of the United Nations, European Zionists deemed themselves to be an occupied people as they emigrated to Palestine – a land to which any historical connection they had had long since passed through a largely voluntary transit.
Indeed, a full 50 years before the UN spoke of the right of armed struggle as a vehicle of indigenous liberation, European Zionists illegally co-opted the concept as the Irgun, Lehiand other terrorist groups undertook a decade’s long reign of deadly mayhem.
During this time, they slaughtered not only thousands of indigenous Palestinians but targeted British police and military personnel that had long maintained a colonial presence there.
A history of Zionist attacks
Perhaps, as Israelis sit down to mourn the loss of twoof their soldiers who were shot dead this past week in Jerusalem – in what many consider to be a lawful act of resistance – a visit down memory lane might just place the events in their proper historical context.
On April 12, 1938, the Irgun murdered two British police officers in a train bombing in Haifa. On August 26, 1939, two British officers were killed by an Irgun landmine in Jerusalem. On February 14, 1944, two British constables were shot dead when they attempted to arrest people for pasting up wall posters in Haifa. On September 27, 1944, more than 100 members of the Irgun attacked four British police stations, injuring hundreds of officers. Two days later a senior British police officer of the Criminal Intelligence Department was assassinated in Jerusalem.
On November 1, 1945, another police officer was killed as five trains were bombed. On December 27, 1945, seven British officers lost their lives in a bombing on police headquarters in Jerusalem. Between November 9 and 13, 1946, Jewish “underground” members launched a series of landmine and suitcase bomb attacks in railway stations, trains, and streetcars, killing 11 British soldiers and policemen and eight Arab constables.
Four more officers were murdered in another attack on a police headquarters on January 12, 1947. Nine months later, four British police were murdered in an Irgun bank robbery and, but three days later, on September 26, 1947, an additional 13 officers were killed in yet another terrorist attack on a British police station.
These are but a few of many attacks directed by Zionist terrorists at British police who were seen, by mostly European Jews, as legitimate targets of a campaign they described as one of liberation against an occupation force.
Throughout this period, Jewish terrorists also undertook countless attacks that spared no part of the British and Palestinian infrastructure. They assaulted British military and police installations, government offices, and ships, often with bombs. They also sabotaged railways, bridges, and oil installations. Dozens of economic targets were attacked, including 20 trains that were damaged or derailed, and five train stations. Numerous attacks were carried out against the oil industry including one, in March 1947, on a Shell oil refinery in Haifa which destroyed some 16,000 tonnes of petroleum.
Zionist terrorists killed British soldiers throughout Palestine, using booby traps, ambushes, snipers, and vehicle blasts.
One attack, in particular, sums up the terrorism of those who, without any force of international law at the time, saw no limitation to their efforts to “liberate” a land that they had, largely, only recently emigrated to.
In 1947, the Irgun kidnapped two British Army Intelligence Corps non-commissioned officers and threatened to hang them if death sentences of three of their own members were carried out. When these three Irgun members were executed by hanging, the two British sergeants were hanged in retaliation and their booby-trapped bodies were left in an eucalyptus grove.
In announcing their execution, the Irgun said that the two British soldiers were hanged following their conviction for “criminal anti-Hebrew activities” which included: illegal entry into the Hebrew homeland and membership in a British criminal terrorist organisation – known as the Army of Occupation – which was “responsible for the torture, murder, deportation, and denying the Hebrew people the right to live”. The soldiers were also charged with illegal possession of arms, anti-Jewish spying in civilian clothes, and premeditated hostile designs against the underground (pdf).
Well beyond the territorial confines of Palestine, in late 1946-47 a continuing campaign of terrorism was directed at the British. Acts of sabotage were carried out on British military transportation routes in Germany. The Lehi also tried, unsuccessfully, to drop a bomb on the House of Commons from a chartered plane flown from France and, in October 1946, bombed the British Embassy in Rome. A number of other explosive devices were detonated in and around strategic targets in London. Some 21 letter bombs were addressed, at various times, to senior British political figures. Many were intercepted, while others reached their targets but were discovered before they could go off.
The steep price of self-determination
Self-determination is a difficult, costly march for the occupied. In Palestine, no matter what the weapon of choice – whether voice, pen or gun – there is a steep price to be paid for its use.
Today, “speaking truth to power” has become very much a popular mantra of resistance in neoliberal circles and societies. In Palestine, however, for the occupied and oppressed, it is an all-but-certain path to prison or death. Yet, for generations of Palestinians stripped of the very breath that resonates with the feeling of freedom, history teaches there is simply no other choice.
Silence is surrender. To be silent is to betray all those who have come before and all those yet to follow.
For those who have never felt the constant yoke of oppression, or seen it up close, it is a vision beyond comprehension. Occupation sits heavy on the occupied, every day in every way, limiting who you are and what you may dare to become.
The constant rub of barricades, guns, orders, prison and death are fellow travellers for the occupied, whether infants, teens in the spring of life, the elderly, or those trapped by the artificial confines of borders over which they have no control.
To the families of the two Israeli Druze policemen who lost their lives while trying to control a place that was not theirs to command, I extend my condolences. These young men were, however, not lost to the ring of resistance, but willingly sacrificed by an evil occupation that bears no legitimacy whatsoever.
Ultimately, if there is grieving to be done, it must be for the 11 million occupied, whether in Palestine or outside, as so much stateless refugees, stripped of a meaningful voice and opportunity, as the world makes excuses built largely of a political and economic gift box that bears the Star of David.
Not a day goes by now without the chilling wail of a nation watching over a Palestinian infant wrapped in a burial shroud, stripped of life because electricity or transit have become a perverse privilege which holds millions hostage to the political whims of the few. Be they Israeli, Egyptian or those who claim to carry the mantle of Palestinian political leadership, the responsibility of infanticide in Gaza is theirs and theirs alone.
‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress’
The three young men, cousins, who willingly sacrificed their lives in the attack on the two Israeli officers in Jerusalem, did so not as an empty gesture born of desperation, but rather a personal statement of national pride that follows a long line of others who well understood that the price of freedom can, at times, mean all.
For 70 years, not a day has passed without the loss of young Palestinian women and men who, tragically, found greater dignity and freedom in martyrdom than they did in obedient, passive living controlled by those who dared to dictate the parameters of their lives.
Millions of us worldwide dream of a better time and place for Palestinians … free to spread their wings, to soar, to discover who they are and what they wish to become. Until then, I mourn not for the loss of those who stop their flight. Instead, I applaud those who dare to struggle, dare to win – by any means necessary.
There is no magic to resistance and struggle. They transcend time and place and derive their very meaning and ardour in the natural inclination, indeed, drive, of us all to be free – to be free to determine the role of our own lives.
In Palestine, no such freedom exists. In Palestine, international law recognises the fundamental rights to self-determination, freedom and independence for the occupied. In Palestine, that includes the right to armed struggle, if necessary.
Long ago, the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, wrote of struggle. These words resonate no less so today, in Palestine, than they did some one 150 years ago in the heart of the Antebellum South in the United States:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”