Gaza’s energy crisis threatens hospitals, water supply

Palestinian boys hold candles during a protest in Gaza City against widespread blackouts, Feb. 14, 2012.
GAZA CITY (IRIN) — An energy crisis is currently hitting the Gaza Strip’s public services hard and could lead to a severe humanitarian crisis if a sustainable solution is not found soon.

“If the power plant does not resume its work in the next days, some hospitals will be left without electricity,” Mahmud Daher, officer-in-charge of the World Health Organization in Gaza, told IRIN.

Gaza’s only power plant was forced to shut down on Tuesday due to a lack of fuel, which has previously been imported in amounts of up to one million liters a day from Egypt.

“The current crisis is a political problem that started six years ago. The Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to provide the Gaza Strip with funds, and the policy of Egypt which is dealing with Gaza out of security calculations, have all contributed to the current situation,” said Hamas government spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

“(Gaza Prime Minister) Ismail Haniyeh is in Egypt at the moment to discuss the crisis and to find a quick solution. But so far no progress has been made. The whole of Gaza has been without electricity since last night,” he added.

Since the power plant stopped working, public hospitals and clinics have been running on only 20 percent of the 440,000 liters of fuel usually needed per day to supply the health system with electricity, Daher said, adding: “Some hospitals might withstand the crisis for one more week, some others no more than one or two days.”

Some fuel entered the Gaza Strip over on Saturday and Sunday via a tunnel from Egypt, but the amount was not sufficient for resumption of operations at the power plant, which requires more than 400,000 liters of diesel a day, and produces 80-85 megawatts.

The Gaza Strip also receives around 120 MW of electricity from Israel. With the power plant shut down, the overall electricity deficit has reached more than 60 percent of normal supply.

A threat to the most vulnerable

Hassan Khalaf, Gaza’s deputy health minister, said Gaza had only had six hours of electricity a day for the past two weeks. “The nurseries, the ICUs (intensive care units), the operation rooms are all severely affected by that. The crisis is becoming a danger for the most vulnerable.”

Among the hospitals most severely affected is Shifa, which is the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip. According to an as yet unpublished report by WHO, it had fuel for only 54 hours of full operation at the end of last week.

Equally, the al-Aqsa hospital and the Psychiatric hospital are at high risk, with less than 50 hours of fuel supply left as of Thursday.

“Theoretically, we could reach point zero at any time soon,” Daher warned, adding: “In the worst case, the crisis could lead to a stop in vital services for about 100 newborn children, could endanger about 60 people currently in intensive care and about 400 patients who are dependent on life-saving dialysis.”

In addition, non-urgent operations will have to be canceled, and laboratory services, the kitchen and laundry services might be affected.

Critical elements such as intensive care units have a double back-up system of large Uninterruptible Power Supply generators.

But they can only function for short periods, while the main hospital generators are meant to supply electricity for long-term use. Many of the generators are not suitable for constant use and need frequent repair or replacement.

The situation in hospitals has also been worsened by an unusually cold winter, which has increased energy demand. Forced to reset priorities, many hospitals have refrained from heating.

Only the heating systems in stations with newborn children and immune-compromised and elderly patients, who are at risk of hypothermia, have remained intact.

Water pumps not working

The lack of electricity has also affected water supplies.

“Water pumps have lost 40 percent of their capacity to transport water into the wells,” Omar Shatat, technical manager at the Gaza Strip’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, told IRIN.

Before the power plant closed down, pumps delivered about 220,000 liters of water a day. “Now there are hardly able to pump 150,000 per day”, he said.

The situation is further worsened by the 12-18 hour electricity cuts households in the Gaza Strip currently face.

Most households use water pumped by CMWU into tanks. But in order to retrieve the water from there, another pump is needed. “Because they don’t have electricity, the water cannot be delivered into their homes”, Shatat explained.

For now at least, drinking water could be supplied to the entire population. “But if things continue for another three or four days, we could also face a serious problem here,” he added.

Unreliable supply

The Gaza Strip began to import fuel from Egypt through underground tunnels after Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Strip in mid-2007, including heavy restrictions on the movement of goods.

“This blockade made us depend on Egyptian fuel for the last years. But the Gaza Strip’s reliance on this single source was a solution of a very complex problem, created by the interruption of Israeli fuel supply in 2009,” Ahmad Abu al-Amreen, director of public relations at the Gaza Energy Authority, told IRIN.

Despite the partial easing of Israel’s blockade in June 2010, the underground tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip continued to serve as the main channel for importing fuel at a price significantly cheaper than that imported from Israel.

In the weeks prior to the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant on Tuesday, the level of fuel supplied through the Rafah tunnels from Egypt to the Gaza Strip has declined gradually, falling to on average 100-150,000 liters per day, or 20 percent of the daily amount of fuel that entered into Gaza in the previous weeks, says a report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The exact reasons for the decline remain unclear. But “there are reportedly distribution problems affecting fuel in Egypt, as well as other issues, which are impeding deliveries to the border with Gaza,” the report explains.

“People are very frustrated. They have a government that cares little and puts responsibility on the shoulders of everyone else but not on itself. The current crisis was created through dependence on unreliable tunnels, a system in danger of collapsing at any time,” a humanitarian aid worker from Gaza, who asked to remain anonymous, told IRIN.

( / 20.02.2012)

Yemen army split casts shadow over elections

A man carries a poster of Yemen’s Vice President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi during an election rally in Sanaa Feb. 20, 2012. After a year of protests, diplomatic wrangling and an assassination attempt, Yemenis will draw a line under Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three-decade rule with Tuesday’s uncontested election to install his deputy as president.
SANAA (Reuters) — As Yemenis prepare to vote in a poll many hope will give them a new start, a rift in the armed forces between outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s relatives and a defected army general threatens to spoil political transition and tip Yemen into war.

On Tuesday, 67 year-old Saleh, who has ruled the country for three decades, is to give way to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the sole candidate in Yemen’s presidential vote, becoming the fourth leader forced from power since mass uprisings swept the Arab world last year.

The interim government formed in November when Saleh accepted a deal cut by his rich neighbors to avert civil war by easing him from power was to have separated his forces from those of his foes, after battles that left parts of the capital in ruins.

But Sanaa remains a city divided: armed tribesmen and defected military units control entire neighborhoods, ceding no ground and citing the prospect of Saleh hanging on to power behind the scenes as the justification for their presence.

Opposition leaders, keen to push on with the political transition, say the military standoff is itself temporary, and will resolve itself as Saleh’s grip on the country ends.

“In November we were on the brink of civil war,” said Mohammed Abulahoum, a former official in Saleh’s party who quit to form his own. “Now we have a political settlement that should close the door on Saleh and his family for ever.”

Saleh’s relative bolstered by US ties

Others are less convinced.

The transition deal, backed by the United States, gave Saleh immunity from prosecution over the killing of hundreds of protesters, and leaves his son and nephews in positions of power in the military and security forces.

If these members of his inner circle are allowed to stay, Saleh, who has vowed to return to Yemen as head of his political party, will be able to continue wielding influence from behind the scenes, protesters and activists say.

“Saleh might not rule the country but he could still play kingmaker,” said Abdullah Al-Faqih, a professor of political science at Sanaa University. “He still has his ruling party, a son commanding the armed forces and allies holding the key ministries, he remains a political force to be reckoned with.”

The interim government has vowed to restructure the armed forces, a task analysts say runs up against the vested interests of all of Yemen’s warlords.

The fate of Saleh’s relatives is clouded by their centrality in US “counter-terrorism” strategy, aimed at an ambitious al-Qaida offshoot that has plotted attacks abroad, and capitalized on the turmoil over Saleh’s fate to expand its foothold.

Saleh’s immediate family has played a leading role in the fight against al-Qaida in Yemen, especially his nephew Yehya, who heads the country’s highly trained counter-terrorism unit.

That relationship may make Washington reluctant to see complete turnover among its closest military partners in Yemen, and could strengthen Saleh and his cohorts’ hand domestically if they try to retain power, analysts say.

“In the coming months, the US is going to be forced to re-evaluate how it is pursuing its war,” said Yemen scholar Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University.

Opposing Saleh’s relatives on the ground are troops following a dissident general and gunmen loyal to tribal leaders who turned on Saleh as protests against him gained momentum.

In the north, grubby-faced infants clamber on sandbagged checkpoints set up by rebel soldiers who careen through the city in armored trucks with Kalashnikov rifles and tubular rocket-launchers swinging on their shoulders.

Blackened, bullet-pocked ministerial offices with blown-out windows remain under the watchful eye of tribal fighters whose street battles with government forces last year razed an entire neighborhood to the ground.

“As long as these armed groups are out on the streets there remains the potential for a sudden outbreak of violence,” Jamal Benomar, the United Nations envoy to Yemen told Reuters.

Tactical rethink

The dissident soldiers are loyal to Major General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, Saleh’s longtime confidant and partner in campaigns including a 2004-2010 war against rebels in northern Yemen that rights groups say witnessed multiple war crimes.

Ahmar, believed now to be in his late 60s, threw his weight behind the anti-government protest movement in March 2011, taking the First Armoured Division with him. His troops have subsequently fought Saleh’s in the capital and elsewhere.

The schism has raised fears Yemen’s army will not be ready to confront an increasingly dynamic al Q-ida offshoot, which has already gained a foothold in the country’s rural south.

US and Yemeni officials worry that any further loss of government control in the south could expand the group’s influence near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea, and pave the way for future attacks on US and Saudi targets.

The US campaign against al-Qaida has included drone and missile strikes — including one against a US citizen who Washington claims plotted the failed bombing of an airliner — which have killed civilians and fed anti-American sentiment.

It also includes logistical assistance and intelligence sharing with the several factions of the Yemeni military.

Mohsen’s division has vowed to continue assisting the US campaign but say tactics must change.

“We will support America and our allies in the West in the fight against radicalism, but it (America) must alter her strategy to prevent the loss of civilian lives,” said Brigadier General Mohammed al-Sawmli, whose Brigade 25, was pinned down for months by Islamic militants last summer after Yemeni security forces quit southern Abyan province.

“The more civilians the US kills the easier it is for al-Qaida to recruit.”

The ability of Yemen’s military to continue that campaign is in doubt after a rebellion by Yemeni air force officers demanding the departure of their commander, a half-brother of Saleh’s whom they accuse of bad management and corruption.

“The regime can no longer rely on the air force as a tool of repression against its own people,” said Abdulghani Awdal, the air force general leading the efforts to oust the president’s brother.

“If orders are given to carry out further air strikes on anti-government movements they will be refused. Half of the air force is out of the government’s hands now.”

( / 20.02.2012)

Did the Prophet Muhammad Assassinate His Critics? The True Story of Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf

The enemies of Islam frequently accuse of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم of committing acts of treacherous assassination against his critics. But what is the true story?

Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf was a Jewish leader in Medina at the time of the Prophet. When the Prophet arrived in Medina, he established the Constitution of Medina which promised peace and religious freedom for Jews and Muslims. However, Ka’b did not like that the equality of believers was threatening his position of power, and so he decided to wage war against the Prophet. Uri Rubin writes:

Ibn Ishaq relates that Muhammad ordered to kill Ibn al-Ashraf because the latter had gone to Mecca after Badr and provoked Quraysh to fight the prophet. He also composed verses in which he bewailed the victims of Quraysh who had been killed at Badr.

[Rubin, U. (January 01, 1990). The Assassination of Kaʿb b. al-Ashraf. Oriens, 32, 65-71.]

Indeed, according to Ibn Hisham, Ka’b had “raised confederates حزّب الأحزاب” against the Messenger of Allah. Therefore, he was to be killed because of “his aggression عداوته against the Messenger of Allah and his incitement (to war) وتحريضه عليه against him.” The Prophet Muhammad had to defend his community from the violent aggression of Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf and his propagandizing the people to make war on the Muslims.  Thus, the order was given to execute K’ab.

In modern terms, Ka’b was what we could call an enemy combatant, and this incident can be described as a “targeted killing.” Targeted killings in self-defense are widely recognized to be a legal method of warfare. They are not the same as an “assassination” which involves breaking a peace treaty or security agreement. In fact, the Prophet strongly warned against committing any acts of treachery. He said:

إِذَا جَمَعَ اللَّهُ الأَوَّلِينَ وَالآخِرِينَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرْفَعُ لِكُلِّ غَادِرٍ لِوَاءٌ فَقِيلَ هَذِهِ غَدْرَةُ فُلاَنِ بْنِ فُلاَنٍ

When Allah gathers together the earlier and later generations on the Day of Resurrection, He will raise a banner for every treacherous person and it will be announced that this is the treachery of so-and-so the son of so-and-so.

[Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4301]

Interestingly enough, the enemies of Islam – without fail – will cite the story of Ka’b Ibn Al-Ashraf while ignoring this important historical context. They also neglect what Imam Abu Dawud رحمه الله records immediately after the Hadith about Ka’b ibn Al-Ashraf. Lest anyone think that the story of Ka’b allows general permission to commit assassinations, Abu Dawud records the words of the Prophet:

الْإِيمَانُ قَيَّدَ الْفَتْكَ لَا يَفْتِكُ مُؤْمِنٌ

Faith has prevented treacherous assassination.  A believer does not assassinate.

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 15, Number 2769]

Abu Dawud recorded in a chapter shortly before the story of Ka’b that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:

مَنْ قَتَلَ مُعَاهِدًا فِي غَيْرِ كُنْهِهِ حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ

If someone kills a person protected by a covenant, before its term expires, then Allah has made Paradise forbidden for him.

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 15, Number 2760]

Again, you see the enemies of Islam cherry-picking verses and traditions – taking them out of context – while they ignore other verses and traditions that debunk their hateful caricature of Muslims.

So how did the Prophet handle his non-violent critics? With mercy, kindness, and peace, of course! As the Noble Quran says:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth humbly, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!”

[Surah Al-Furqan 25:63]

وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ

When they hear ill speech, they turn away from it and say, “For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. Peace will be upon you; we seek not the ignorant.”

[Surah Al-Qassas 28:55]

Let’s not forget the story of when some Jews came to the Prophet and declared, “Death be upon you!” Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, returned their curses, but what did the Messenger of Allah say?

يَا عَائِشَةُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَفِيقٌ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ فِي الْأَمْرِ كُلِّهِ

O Aisha, Allah is kind and He loves kindness in all matters.

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 61]

If only the enemies of Islam could learn from such a beautiful example!


Ka’b Ibn Al-Ashraf was an enemy combatant who was actively involved in a war of extermination against the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Muslims. He openly declared war against the Muslims and thus the Prophet ordered him to be killed out of self-defense for his community. The specific rule to be taken from the incident is that targeted killings in self-defense are a legitimate tactic in war, having been accepted by renowned jurists from the time of Sun Tzu up until the present day. The general rule is that assassinations (breaking a peace treaty) are forbidden, as many authentic Hadith strongly warn us that treachery leads to the Hellfire. Likewise, terrorism is forbidden in every circumstance.

( / 20.02.2012)

Non-violence activist tells Israeli court charges ‘ridiculous’

A Palestinian demonstrator covers her face with a keffiyeh to protect herself  from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes with stone-throwing demonstrators at a weekly protest against a nearby Jewish settlement, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, Feb. 10, 2012.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Non-violence activist Bassem Tamimi appeared before an Israeli military court on Sunday to deny charges of incitement and organizing “illegal protests” in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

Tamimi told Israel’s Ofer court that the accusation he organized 500 villagers into “battalions” during protests was “ridiculous and makes no sense,” the Popular Struggle Committee said.

Recognized by the EU as a human rights defender, Tamimi, 44, was detained by Israeli forces from his home on March 24.

His village, Nabi Saleh, holds weekly protests against the seizure of their land by nearby Israeli settlement Halamish.

Based on the interrogations of two children from the village — which an Israeli court ruled was admissible evidence despite violating minor’s rights — the Israeli authorities accuse him of soliciting youth to throw stones at Israeli forces during protests.

Tamimi questioned on Sunday why Israel had failed to follow up on this charge. “No one continued to look into this issue to try and dismantle this ‘army’ of mine,” he remarked to the court.

In his testimony, he challenged the Israeli regulations that deem any gathering of more than 10 people an illegal demonstration.

“International law gives us the right to peaceful protest, to demonstrate our refusal of the policies that hurt us, our daily life and the future of our children,” Tamimi said.

“I do not know and do not care if (the protests) are permitted by your law, as it was enacted by an authority I do not recognize.”

“True justice would not have me stand here before this court at all, let alone while I am imprisoned and shackled. This case is baseless and made up with the sole goal of putting me behind bars,” he added.

Since protests began in Nabi Saleh in December 2009, Israeli forces have detained more than 80 residents, around 10 percent of the entire village, according to the Popular Struggle Committee.

Two of Tamimi’s sons have been injured by Israeli soldiers at protests, and his wife has been detained twice. Israeli’s Civil Administration has ordered the demolition of Tamimi’s home, which was built in 1965.

( / 20.02.2012)

Israeli Court Speeds Hearing for Palestinian Hunger Striker

Abed Omar Qusini

Palestinians protested in support of Khader Adnan, an Islamic Jihad leader, and their relatives jailed in Israel, in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s High Court is slated to hear an urgent petition on Tuesday in the case of a Palestinian detained without charge who has been on a hunger strike for two months.

The hearing had first been scheduled for Thursday but his lawyers and human rights groups representing the hospitalized 33-year-old detainee, Khader Adnan, were worried that he would not survive that long.

Mr. Adnan’s case challenges a decades-old Israeli practice employed almost exclusively against Palestinians, thousands of whom have been detained by military court orders under similar circumstances for months and even years. He is already being hailed a hero in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Adnan is not the first Palestinian to have gone on a hunger strike, but his — 66 days long as of Monday — has proven the most enduring. A medical report prepared last week by an Israeli-accredited doctor on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and filed along with the petition to speed his hearing at the High Court, stated that Mr. Adnan was “in immediate danger of death” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival.”

Whether Mr. Adnan’s case ends in legal victory or death, it is likely to have far-reaching consequences.

Thousands of Palestinians now in Israeli jails have declared that they will take steps in solidarity with Mr. Adnan, and there are growing concerns in Israel that his death could lead to unrest.

Mr. Adnan began his hunger strike on Dec. 18, a day after he was taken from his village, Arraba, in the northern West Bank, according to Addameer, a Palestinian organization that supports prisoners and is providing legal aid in the case.

The father of two small girls, he works as a baker, but has been identified by Palestinians as a leader of Islamic Jihad, an extremist organization that has carried out suicide bombings and fired rockets from Gaza into southern Israel. He was previously detained by the Palestinian Authority in 2010.

A spokesman for the Israeli military, Capt. Eytan Buchman, said only that Mr. Adnan’s latest detention “stems from involvement in actions that threaten regional security.” Administrative detention, he added, “is a tool used when information pertaining to a case is based on sensitive sources that cannot be released.” Defendants retain the right to appeal in the military court and the High Court of Justice.

Critics say that the secret nature of the evidence amounts to arbitrary arrest and makes it impossible for administrative detainees or their lawyers to mount a proper defense.

Mr. Adnan was issued a four-month detention order on Jan. 8 and it was confirmed by a military judge a month later. A first appeal was rejected on Feb. 13.

In the three weeks between Mr. Adnan’s arrest and the detention order, he was interrogated. Yet Israel still did not produce a charge sheet or evidence linking him to violent Islamic Jihad activity, according to Jawad Boulus, one of Mr. Adnan’s lawyers.

“We are asking for him to be released on grounds that they have nothing against him,” Mr. Boulus said.

Administrative detention orders can apply for up to six months, but they can also be renewed repeatedly.

“In Arabic we have a term for it,” said Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “It is like reburying a corpse again and again.”

Mr. Jabarin has himself spent a total of seven years in administrative detention, including a two-year stint in the late 1990s.

The Israeli military has used administrative detention since it conquered the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, based on provisions from the period decades earlier when the area was under British rule. The number of administrative detainees has fluctuated enormously over the years. At one point in the late 1980s, at the height of the first Palestinian intifada, Mr. Jabarin said there were 11,000 Palestinians under administration detention. There are currently an estimated 310 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons.

A doctor from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel visited Mr. Adnan at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, northern Israel, on Sunday, as did his family and his lawyer.

Mr. Adnan was lucid and able to communicate, said Anat Litvin, the director of the group’s prisoners and detainees department.

Mr. Adnan has consented to liquid infusions containing salts and minerals to help stabilize his condition, but has refused any nourishment and could collapse at any moment, she said.

( / 20.02.2012)

Report: Dozens protest Israeli president visit to Nazareth

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Dozens of people gathered in Nazareth on Monday to protest a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli media reported.

The protesters waved Palestinian flags and held banners denouncing the president’s visit to the majority Palestinian city in northern Israel, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Three people were arrested after clashes broke out with security officers, a police commander told Ynet, adding that one person attacked a police officer with a Palestinian flag.

Israel’s Palestinian community of 1.6 million, which represents about 20 percent of the population, is descended from the 160, 000 Palestinians who remained after the war to establish Israel.

Despite carrying Israeli citizenship, Palestinians receive fewer government resources and restrictions on their cultural and political identity.

( / 20.02.2012)

Sheikh Qaradawi urges Arab nation to defend Aqsa Mosque

BEIRUT, (PIC)– Head of the international union for Muslim scholars Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi called for Arab popular moves to protect the Aqsa Mosque and confront the Jewish attempts to defile it.

In a press release issued on Monday by Al-Quds international foundation, Sheikh Qaradawi stressed that the Aqsa Mosque is a red line and the Muslims would not stand idly if the Jews repeated their attacks on the Mosque.

He urged the Palestinians in their occupied land and the Arab peoples in neighboring countries, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, to rise up in defense of the Aqsa Mosque and liberate it from the Jewish occupation.

( / 20.02.2012)

Moslims op hogeschool bidden in trapgang


Moslims op hogeschool bidden in trapgang

Islamitische studenten van de Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) hebben op hun school geen stilteruimte tot hun beschikking en dus bidden ze dagelijks in de trapgang op zelf meegebrachte kleedjes.

Dat schrijft dagblad Sp!ts. Tot april 2011 fungeerde de kelder van de HvA als een geïmproviseerde stilteruimte, toegankelijk voor mensen van alle religies. In praktijk waren het alleen moslims die er gebruik van maakten om te bidden en dus werd deze gesloten. “We willen niet een gebedsruimte exclusief voor een groep. Als er een ruimte is waar mensen zich kunnen terugtrekken, dan is deze voor iedereen”, was toen de toelichting van de HvA.

Nu moslims een verzoek hebben ingediend voor een stilteruimte, krijgen zij te horen: “De HvA is een openbare instelling. Voor alle overtuigingen is gelijkelijk respect en voor geen enkele overtuiging worden speciale voorzieningen getroffen”.

“Naast studenten die pleiten voor een stilteruimte zijn er ook studenten, met name meisjes, die er bij het CvB op aandringen deze faciliteiten niet in te richten omdat zij dan door geloofsgenoten onder druk worden gezet om te bidden op een moment dat zij dat niet willen”, aldus de woordvoerder van het College van Bestuur van de HvA.

( / 20.02.2012)

Mahatma Gandhi Rejected Zionism

Gandhi’s major statement on the Palestine and the Jewish question came forth in his widely circulated editorial in the Harijan of 11 November 1938, a time when intense struggle between the Palestinian Arabs and the immigrant Jews had been on the anvil in Palestine. His views came in the context of severe pressure on him, especially from the Zionist quarters, to issue a statement on the problem. Therefore, he started his piece by saying that his sympathies are all with the Jews, who as a people were subjected to inhuman treatment and persecution for a long time.

“But”, Gandhi asserted, “My sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and in the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after their return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?”

He thus questioned the very foundational logic of political Zionism. Gandhi rejected the idea of a Jewish State in the Promised Land by pointing out that the “Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract.” The Zionists, after embarking upon a policy of colonization of Palestine and after getting British recognition through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews,” tried to elicit maximum international support. The Jewish leaders were keen to get an approval for Zionism from Gandhi as his international fame as the leader of a non-violent national struggle against imperialism would provide great impetus for the Jewish cause. But his position was one of total disapproval of the Zionist project both for political and religious reasons. He was against the attempts of the British mandatory Government in Palestine toeing the Zionist line of imposing itself on the Palestinians in the name of establishing a Jewish national home. Gandhi’s Harijan editorial is an emphatic assertion of the rights of the Arabs in Palestine. The following oft-quoted lines exemplify his position: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs… Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.”

Gandhi’s response to Zionism and the Palestine question contains different layers of meaning, ranging from an ethical position to political realism. What is interesting is that Gandhi, who firmly believed in the inseparability of religion and politics, had been consistently and vehemently rejecting the cultural and religious nationalism of the Zionists.

What follows then is that he was not for religion functioning as a political ideology; rather, he wanted religion to provide an ethical dimension to nation-State politics. Such a difference was vital as far as Gandhi was concerned. A uni-religious justification for claiming a nation-State, as in the case of Zionism, did not appeal to him in any substantial sense.

The history of Palestine in the first half of this century has been characterized by the contention between two kinds of nationalism: Zionism and Palestinian Arab nationalism-the former striving for creating a Jewish nation in Palestine by colonizing its land through massive Jewish immigration and the latter struggling for freedom of the inhabitants of the land of Palestine from colonial and imperialist control.

Gandhi, in his role as leader of the national struggle and the Indian National Congress (the organization embodying that struggle), had been actively engaged during the 1930s and 1940s in moulding the perception of the people of India to the nationalist and anti-imperialist struggles in the Arab world. The 1937 Calcutta meeting of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) “emphatically protested against the reign of terror as well as the partition proposals relating to Palestine” and expressed the solidarity of the Indian people with the Arab peoples’ struggle for national freedom. The Delhi AICC of September 1938 said in its resolution that Britain should leave the Jews and the Arabs to amicably settle the issues between the two parties, and it urged the Jews “not to take shelter behind British Imperialism.” Gandhi wanted the Jews in Palestine to seek the goodwill of the Arabs by discarding “the help of the British bayonet.”

Gandhi and the Congress thus openly supported Palestinian Arab nationalism, and Gandhi was more emphatic in the rejection of Zionist nationalism. The major political driving force in such a position was the common legacy of anti-imperialist struggle of the Indians and the Palestinians. Gandhi’s views on the Zionist doctrine and his firm commitment to the Palestinian cause starting from the 1930s obviously influenced the design of independent India’s position on the Palestine issue.

Gandhi’s prescription for the Jews in Germany and the Arabs in Palestine was non-violent resistance. With regard to the Jewish problem in Germany, Gandhi noted, “I am convinced that if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead them in non-violent action, the winter of their despair can, in the twinkling of an eye, be turned into the summer of hope.” His views on Zionism and his prescription of non-violent action and self-sacrifice to the Jews in Germany generated reactions ranging from anger to despair. Famous Jewish pacifists, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes and Hayim Greenberg, who otherwise admired Gandhi, felt “highly offended by Gandhi’s anti-Zionism” and criticized him for his lack of understanding of the spirit of Zionism. Martin Buber, in a long reply to Gandhi’s Harijan editorial, remarked, “You are only concerned, Mahatma, with the “right of possession” on the one side; you do not consider the right to a piece of free land on the other side – for those who are hungering for it.”

As mentioned earlier, Gandhi refused to view the Zionist “hunger” for land in Palestine as a right. Gandhi wrote on 7 January 1939 the following in response to an editorial in the Statesman, “I hold that non-violence is not merely a personal virtue. It is also a social virtue to be cultivated like the other virtues. Surely society is largely regulated by the expression of non-violence in its mutual dealing. What I ask for is an extension of it on a larger, national and international scale.”

Also, it is significant to note that, as far as Gandhi was concerned, non-violent action was not pacifism or a defensive activity but a way of waging war. This war without violence also requires discipline, training and the assessment of the strength and weakness of the enemy.

According to Paul Power, four factors influenced Gandhi’s position on Zionism:

“First, he was sensitive about the ideas of Muslim Indians who were anti-Zionists because of their sympathy for Middle Eastern Arabs opposed to the Jewish National Home; second, he objected to any Zionist methods inconsistent with his way of non-violence; third, he found Zionism contrary to his pluralistic nationalism, which excludes the establishment of any State based solely or mainly on one religion; and fourth, he apparently believed it imprudent to complicate his relations with the British, who held the mandate in Palestine.”

Gandhi withstood almost all Zionist attempts at extracting a pro-Zionist stance from him. G.H. Jansen wrote about the failure of Zionist lobbying with Gandhi:

“His opposition [to Zionism] remained consistent over a period of nearly 20 years and remained firm despite skilful and varied applications to him of that combination of pressure and persuasion known as lobbying, of which the Zionists are past masters.”

Apart from responses to Gandhi’s anti-Zionism from Jewish pacifists such as Buber, Magnes and Greenberg, Jansen points out at least four separate instances of Zionist attempts to get a favourable statement from Gandhi. At first, Hermann Kallenbach, Gandhi’s Jewish friend in South Africa, came to India in 1937 and stayed for weeks with Gandhi trying to convince him of the merits of the Zionist cause. Then, in the 1930s, as requested by Rabbi Stephen Wise, the American pacifist John Haynes Holmes, tried “to obtain from Gandhi a declaration favourable to Zionism”. In March 1946, a British MP from the Labour Party, Sydney Silverman, an advocate of Indian independence in Britain, attempted to change Gandhi’s mind. At the end of their heated conversation, Gandhi stated that “after all our talk, I am unable to revise the opinion I gave you in the beginning.” The fourth Zionist attempt to change Gandhi’s mind was by Louis Fischer, Gandhi’s famous biographer, to whom Gandhi reported to have said that “the Jews have a good case.”

Later, Gandhi clarified in one of his final pieces on Zionism and the Palestine question on 14 July 1946 that “I did say some such thing in the course of a conversation with Mr. Louis Fischer on the subject.” He added, “I do believe that the Jews have been cruelly wronged by the world.”

Gandhi went back to his initial position by categorically stating that “But in my opinion, they [the Jews] have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism… Why should they depend on American money or British arms for forcing themselves on an unwelcome land? Why should they resort to terrorism to make good their forcible landing in Palestine?”

There were an influential number of Jews who thought that force, only force, could ensure the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. They adopted terrorism as the method to achieve their national goal. This policy of subjugation of the Palestinians by Zionist terror was totally rejected by Gandhi in no uncertain terms.

A few months before his assassination, Gandhi answered the question “What is the solution to the Palestine problem?” raised by Doon Campbell of Reuters:

“It has become a problem which seems almost insoluble. If I were a Jew, I would tell them: ‘Do not be so silly as to resort to terrorism…’ The Jews should meet the Arabs, make friends with them and not depend on British aid or American aid, save what descends from Jehovah.”

( / August 15, 2001 / 20.02.2012)

Knesset member Tibi visits Khader Adnan in Israeli hospital

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi on Monday visited hunger-striking prisoner Khader Adnan in an Israeli hospital, expressing his support for the detainee’s protest against his detention without charge.

“Adnan in a very serious health condition but his spirits are high,” Tibi told reporters after the visit to Rifka Zaef hospital in the town of Safed.

The Israeli lawmaker called for Israel to release the Islamic Jihad leader, who has been on hunger strike for 65 days and was sentenced to a four-month administrative detention order on Jan. 8.

He warned that protests would erupt in the West Bank, Gaza and Israeli jails if Adnan does not survive.

Adnan did not break any laws, and detention without charge contradicts international human rights standards, he said.

( / 20.02.2012)