September, 11 2011 : Daring to be free

Ten years ago. Time flies. I remember the images, my reactions : shock, near denial. “It’s crazy, it can’t be !” A few days later Time magazine invited me to talk about the relationship between such violence and Islam. I remember having said, clearly : “As so many other observers, I have questions about the facts. But since Muslims were claiming to have acted in the name of my religion, I must take a stand and condemn these terrible terrorist attacks. Nothing can justify them ; not only are they non-Islamic, they are anti-Islamic.” At the time, I was still minimizing the potential impact of those attacks. I was not completely aware of either the magnitude or the potential exploitation of what would soon be called “Islamic terrorism” and the “War on Terror.” But it rapidly became clear that we were witnessing a turning point. The reaction of the American people was as noble as it was honorable. Despite the media coverage and the political confusion, 66% did not believe that the attacks represented Islam. Many hurried to help their Muslim neighbors and to protect the local mosque. It was an impressive display.

Then President George W. Bush gave American citizens, especially the Muslims, a choice. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. American citizens and Muslims were trapped, especially when a few weeks later they had to support the invasion of Afghanistan as a legitimate response to 9/11. The true relationship between the innocent Afghans who were going to die and Usama Ben Laden was not clear. There was nevertheless no choice : either you are with us or with the terrorists was the motto.

I believed it was possible to be against both. The 9/11 attacks had to be clearly and firmly condemned, just as the war in Afghanistan—and more broadly the so called war on terror —was unjustifiable. But I had to face the reality : the world had changed.In the name of our own security we had to accept to be monitored, questioned and suspected. Our social and political rights, as well as our most basic human right—the presumption of innocence—were questioned ; the greater the violence, the more draconian the security policy.

For ten years —with another “legitimate” additional war in Iraq—we have been witnessed growing fear, suspicion, and stigmatization. Mainstream Muslim, in the West as well as in the Muslim majority countries, became more and more vocal and proactive. Not only did they condemn was happened but also attempted to explain the true nature of Islam. Conferences, symposia and lectures were organized around the world to cleanse Islam of such behavior. Ten years later have we succeeded ? The situation and the figures are cause for concern : the great majority of the Western population have a very negative image of not only extremists but of Islam and of ordinary practicing Muslims. 72% of Americans now think that Islam and the Muslim are a problem in the United States.

In the Muslim majority countries, the situation is the same. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed by terrorist attacks themselves or have paid the price of the so-called war on terror as justified retaliation. The consequences of 9/11—beyond Afghanistan and Iraq—are huge. Muslims must prove they are “moderate ;” they are seen as permanently suspect, both in their way of life and when they travel. We have heard time and time again : “Not all Muslims are terrorists but it so happens that all terrorists are Muslims”—a slogan that has justified the mainly negative media coverage of Islam and the discriminatory treatment of Muslims.

Usama Ben Laden has been killed, we are told. A page of a sinister book has been turned ; it’s time to move on. The Arab uprisings have proved that massive non-violent protest can shake the dictators’ thrones. One can feel a new energy even nothing is clear and the future still uncertain. It might be, however, that the most important liberation for the Muslims will be intellectual and psychological.

It is time for them to stop being defensive and apologetic about their faith and values. The war on Muslim minds has had a damaging effect and, on the long run, might prove more dangerous than the war on terror. For millions of Muslims, it is essential to resist becoming alienated, frightened, uncertain and lacking self-confidence. Not to live in the eyes of others’ judgments, but by the meaning of one’s own dignity. It might be that 9/11 is teaching us the most important of all Islamic spiritual teachings : intellectual and psychological liberation are the two conditions of freedom. Through their spiritual, intellectual and social struggles Muslims should dare to be free. For freedom has a price they must be prepared to pay.

( / 10.09.2011)

Bulletin: Children’s pictures from Gaza are banned in Bay Area

Disgusting and horrifying news. What are these people afraid of? An exhibit of children’s art from Gaza, brought back to the States by Susan Johnson, was scheduled to go public on Sept. 24 at the Oakland Museum of Children’s Art. The Middle East Children’s Alliance, a partner in staging the exhibit, informs us that the museum’s board folded and the exhibit has been cancelled.

Three items follow. The release from the Middle East Children’s Alliance; a note from Annie, who had written to the museum yesterday; and the still-live listing for the event at bottom, on the children’s museum site:

For immediate Release     Oakland Museum Shuts Down Palestinian Children’s Exhibit  September 9, 2011

Berkeley, CA— The Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland (MOCHA) has decided to cancel an exhibit of art by Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip. The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), which was partnering with MOCHA to present the exhibit, was informed of the decision by the Museum’s board president on Thursday, September 8, 2011. For several months, MECA and the museum had been working together on the exhibit, which is titled “A Child’s View of Gaza.”

MECA has learned that there was a concerted effort by pro-Israel organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area to pressure the museum to reverse its decision to display Palestinian children’s art.

Barbara Lubin, the Executive Director of MECA, expressed her dismay that the museum decided to censor this exhibit in contradiction of its mission “to ensure that the arts are a fundamental part of the lives of all children.”

“We understand all too well the enormous pressure that the museum came under. But who wins? The museum doesn’t win. MECA doesn’t win. The people of the Bay Area don’t win. Our basic constitutional freedom of speech loses. The children in Gaza lose,” she said.

“The only winners here are those who spend millions of dollars censoring any criticism of Israel and silencing the voices of children who live every day under military siege and occupation.”

Unfortunately, this disturbing incident is just one example of many across the nation in which certain groups have successfully silenced the Palestinian perspective, which includes artistic expression. In fact, some organizations have even earmarked funds for precisely these efforts. Last year, regrettably the Jewish Federation of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative to effectively silence Palestinian voices even in “cultural institutions.”

The free exhibit, co-sponsored by nearly twenty local organizations, was scheduled to open on September 24, and featured special activities for children and families, including a cartooning workshop and poetry readings.

The Gaza Strip, which has a population of 1.6 million, has been under siege since Israel imposed a blockade against it in 2006. The United Nations and many human rights organizations across the world have condemned the blockade as an inhumane and cruel form of collective punishment.

“Even while the children in Gaza are living under Israeli policies that deprive them of every basic necessity, they managed through art, to express their realities and hopes. It’s really very sad that there are people in the U.S. silencing them and shredding their dreams,” said Ziad Abbas, MECA’s Associate Director.

MECA is disappointed in the museum’s decision to deny Bay Area residents the opportunity to view Palestinian children’s art, and is committed to seeking an alternative venue.

“We made a promise to the children that their art will be shown and we are going to keep  that promise,” said Lubin.

Media please contact:  Leena Al-Arian Communications Coordinator, MECA

( / 10.09.2011)

Libye : Kadhafi est le «bienvenu» en Guinée-Bissau

Alors que l’ex-homme fort de la Libye est introuvable depuis la chute de son quartier général à Tripoli le 23 août, le Premier ministre de la Guinée-Bissau, Carlos Gomes Junior, a déclaré qu’il accueillerait l’ex-dirigeant libyen Mouammar Kadhafi «à bras ouverts» dans son pays si ce dernier le souhaite, a rapporté ce samedi une radio de Bissau.

«Si Kadhafi demande à venir en Guinée-Bissau, nous l’accueillerons à bras ouverts et nous assurerons sa sécurité», a ainsi déclaré Carlos Gomes Junior cité par Radio Diffusion Portuguese (RDP). Une déclaration qui intervient alors qu’un nouveau convoi d’une «douzaine de véhicules» transportant des proches de Mouammar Kadhafi est arrivé vendredi à Agadez, dans le nord du Niger, selon des sources concordantes.

( / 10.09.2011)

Israel Presents Lists Of Detainees It Won’t Release

The Al Hayat Paper in London reported Friday that a third round of indirect prisoner-swap talks was held in Cairo last Tuesday under direct Egyptian supervision mediating between the Hamas movement and Israel, in an attempt to reach a prisoner swap deal. Yet, Israel presented a list of detainees it will not release under any condition.

Al Hayat reported that Cairo prepared a draft that includes all points of agreement, and new ideas that are said to help advance prisoner swap talks that would ensure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian detainees imprisoned by Israel.

Israel agreed to release all female prisoners, and Arab-Palestinian prisoners from Jerusalem and the 1948 territories (Israel).

During previous rounds of talks, Israel presented a list that contains the names of 120 detainees that it will not release under all circumstances. But according to the new report, the list dropped to 40 detainees.

The Al Hayat further reported that Israel also agreed to reduce the number of detainees it insists on deporting out of Palestine.

It is worth mentioning that the Hamas negotiations team is headed by Ahmad Al Ja’bary, a senior leader of the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and David Midan, representing the Israeli Prime Minister.

Corporal Gilad Shalit was captured when three Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza carried out a cross border raid on a military base in June 2006; two Israeli soldiers and two fighters were killed.

Shalit is the only Israeli prisoner in Palestinian hands; Israel is holding captive more than 7500 Palestinians, including dozens of women and children.

( / 10.09.2011)

UK unions to debate cutting all ties with Israel

London, Sept 9, IRNA – British trade unions are to debate withdrawing cooperation with all Israeli organisations, including with Histadrut, at their annual conference in London next week.
UK unions to debate cutting all ties with Israel
    The unprecedented proposal has been made by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) as an amendment to a motion next Wednesday at the Trade Union Congress, which also calls on the British government to recognise a Palestinian state.

“Congress calls on all unions on the basis of this policy to review their bi-lateral relations with all Israeli organisations, including Histradrut,” the main Israeli union, the amendment states.

It also “deplores the anti-democratic law passed by the Knesset banning individuals and organisations in Israel from calling for the boycott of Israel.”

The main motion sponsored by Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union warns: “There can be no peace without justice for the Palestinians”.

At last year’s conference, the TUC stepped up its action against Israel by endorsing the international Boycott, Disinevestment and Sanctions campaign against the Zionist regime.

According to the Jewish Chronicle, Israeli organisations are furious about the latest move and Histadrut would almost certainly initiate retaliation to isolate Britain within the international trades union movement if the amendment is voted through.

Any severance, the weekly said, would break a link between the British trade unions and the Histadrut that goes back to the creation of Israel.

( / 10.09.2011)

Replant an olive tree

Ni’lin has lost 1100 of its olive trees since the construction of the apartheid wall began in 2008. Some of them has been bulldozed, some of them burned, all of them a tragedy for a society dependent of the olive harvest. This website is a response to a local call to collect funding to replant the trees.

Our goal is to replant half of the lost trees in January 2012. You can help by donating a tree or more, or by spreading information about this initiative!

( / 10.09.2011)

Israeli artillery bomb Gaza, forces kidnap five Palestinians from strip

GAZA, Sept 10 (KUNA) — Israeli artillery shelled the eastern outskirts of Abasan village in southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, eyewitnesses said.
They said, in remarks to KUNA, that the artillery fired two shells at an empty land in Abasan, located in the northeast of Khan Yunus. The shells fell meters away from a civilian car but no one was hurt, they said.
Meanwhile, an Israel forces carried out an incursion in the town of Al-Qarrara, southern Gaza, kidnapped five Palestinians and took them back to Israel, Palestinian sources said.
They said around 30 soldiers, backed by Apache helicopters, penetrated hundreds of meters to the east of Al-Qarrara and kidnapped five Palestinian boys with ages between 14 and 17 years.

( / 10.09.2011)

Assad en Arabische Liga ‘zijn het eens’ over hervormen

De Syrische president Bashar al-Assad en de Arabische Liga zijn het vandaag eens geworden over een aantal maatregelen die moeten bijdragen aan het einde van het geweld in het land. ‘Ik verzekerde president Assad dat hervormingen noodzakelijk zijn als beginpunt om uit de huidige crisis te komen waar Syrië zich in bevindt’, zei de leider van de Arabische Liga, Nabil al-Arabi.

Hij zal de voorgestelde maatregelen voorleggen aan de Arabische ministers die binnenkort vergaderen over het al vijf maanden aanhoudende geweld in Syrië.

De Arabische Liga is een organisatie van 22 landen in de regio. De leider was vandaag in de Syrische hoofdstad Damascus alsnog aangekomen voor een bezoek. Het was eigenlijk gepland voor woensdag, maar Syrië zegde dat op het laatste moment af.

Arabi gaf geen verdere details, maar eerder was al bekend geworden dat hij een plan met 13 punten bij zich had, bedoeld om de bloedige conflicten tussen leger en demonstranten te beëindigen. Het plan stelt voor dat Assad binnen 3 jaar verkiezingen houdt en direct stopt met het neerslaan van demonstraties.

Het voorstel was vorige maand aangenomen bij een bijeenkomst van de Arabische Liga in Caïro. Syrië sprak eerder over over ‘onaanvaardbare en bevooroordeelde taal.’

In Syrië is het al maanden onrustig. Volgens de Verenigde Naties zijn er bij de betogingen meer dan 2200 mensen omgekomen, overwegend burgers. Vandaag werden nog eens twaalf mensen gedood door regeringstroepen, meldden mensenrechtenactivisten. Ook werden drie lichamen van mensen die donderdag waren gearresteerd overgedragen aan familieleden. Het lichaam van een man die antiregeringsprotesten had georganiseerd zou verwondingen van martelingen hebben, aldus mensenrechtenorganisatie Human Rights Watch.

( / 10.09.2011)

Medics: Israeli forces shell car in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Saturday fired an artillery shell at a civilian car in southern Gaza causing no injuries, medics said.

Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said the car was shelled east of Khan Younis.

Locals reported hearing a huge explosion near the border in the area.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was not immediately aware of any shelling in the area but said he would look into it.

( / 10.09.2011)

Turkey wants strong ties with Arab Spring countries

ANKARA (AFP) — Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Monday begin an “Arab Spring” tour to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in a bid to forge stronger ties as relations with Israel are sinking to new lows over a flotilla row.

The visit to Egypt comes amid a state of high alert declared on Saturday in Cairo after protesters stormed the building housing Israel’s embassy and clashed with police, prompting a mass evacuation of the ambassador and other staff, a Turkish diplomat said.

Erdogan, a popular leader on the Arab street due to his strong challenge to Israel, will seek closer economic and military ties with the new rulers of Egypt as Turkey is positioning itself as a regional player.

A strong sympathizer of the Palestinian cause, Erdogan in the past embarrassed Egypt with his outspoken condemnation of Israel’s treatment toward Palestinians, in contrast to the restraint of now ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

In Cairo, Erdogan will meet with his Egyptian counterpart Essam Sharaf as well as Marshal Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

He will also deliver a speech at the council meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers, according to his official program.

Besides his official talks, Erdogan will meet Egypt’s young leaders who spearheaded the country’s popular revolt that ousted the 82-year-old strongman.

In February, those young activists who gathered in Cairo’s central Tahrir square listened live to Erdogan’s calls for Mubarak to step down, as carried by Al-Jazeera television.

Erdogan’s visit to Egypt comes at a time its relations with Israel have reached a new low after last-ditch efforts to reconcile between the once-regional allies over last year’s deadly flotilla raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship failed.

In retaliation for Israel’s refusal to apologize for the killing of nine people in the raid, Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government announced a set of measures including expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending all bilateral military agreements.

Erdogan went even further by saying that Turkish ships would appear more frequently in the eastern Mediterranean.

On Thursday, Erdogan expressed his government’s will to allow more ships to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, saying that Turkish warships would escort the country’s aid vessels, a move sparking fears of a confrontation with Israel.

He also threatened to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, entering via neighboring Egypt, but Turkish officials ruled out such a trip for the time being, saying that Ankara did not want to become a problem for the new Egyptian administration.

Observers say the Turkish measures against Israel could boost the country’s popularity in the Arab world as Ankara is also a fervent supporter of the Palestinians’ drive for statehood at the United Nations later this month.

In a sign of solidarity, Erdogan will continue his tour with a trip to another Arab Spring country, Tunisia, before traveling to Libya the next day.

In Libya, he will confer with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the now-ruling National Transitional Council based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Turkey, the only mainly Muslim member of NATO, gradually took a hard line against the old Libyan regime, after at first criticizing Western air strikes against the forces of Moammar Gadhafi.

In July, Turkey recognized the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government.

( / 10.09.2011)