Why is alcohol forbidden in Islam?

Intoxicants were forbidden in the Qur’an through several separate verses revealed at different times over a period of years. At first, it was forbidden for Muslims to attend to prayers while intoxicated (4:43). Then a later verse was revealed which said that alcohol contains some good and some evil, but the evil is greater than the good (2:219). This was the next step in turning people away from consumption of it. Finally, “intoxicants and games of chance” were called “abominations of Satan’s handiwork,” intended to turn people away from God and forget about prayer, and Muslims were ordered to abstain (5:90-91). (Note – the Qur’an is not arranged chronologically, so later verses of the book were not necessarily revealed after earlier verses.)

In the first verse cited above, the word for “intoxicated” is sukara which is derived from the word “sugar” and means drunk or intoxicated. That verse doesn’t mention the drink which makes one so. In the next verses cited, the word which is often translated as “wine” or “intoxicants” is al-khamr, which is related to the verb “to ferment.” This word could be used to describe other intoxicants such as beer, although wine is the most common understanding of the word.

Muslims interpret these verses in total to forbid any intoxicating substance — whether it be wine, beer, gin, whiskey, or whatever. The result is the same, and the Qur’an outlines that it is the intoxication, which makes one forgetful of God and prayer, which is harmful. Over the years, the list of intoxicating substances has come to include more modern street drugs and the like.

The Prophet Muhammad also instructed his followers, at the time, to avoid any intoxicating substances — (paraphrased) “if it intoxicates in a large amount, it is forbidden even in a small amount.” For this reason, most observant Muslims avoid alcohol in any form, even small amounts that are sometimes used in cooking.

(islam.about.com / 31.01.2013)

Israeli settlements symbolise the acute lack of justice experienced by the Palestinian people

Geneva, 31 January 2013 – The International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory today published its findings on the implications Israeli settlements have upon the human rights of the Palestinian people.

The report states that a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements.

These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterised principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis.

Since 1967, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements, the report states.

“In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Ms. Christine Chanet, chair of the Mission from France.

The report states that settlements are established and developed for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. The settlements are maintained and advanced through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.

“We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Ms. Asma Jahangir, member of the Mission from Pakistan.

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law. The report also concludes that the Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the transfer of populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand,” said Ms. Unity Dow, member of the Mission from Botswana.

The report states that private entities have also enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction of the settlements – both directly and indirectly.


The full report is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session19/Pages/IsraeliSettlementsInTheOPT.aspx

The press release is available in Hebrew, Arabic, French and English at:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session19/Pages/IsraeliSettlementsInTheOPT.aspx

All media enquiries and requests for interviews should be emailed to: ffmsettlements@ohchr.org or telephone: + 41 79 752 0481.

Full title of the report: “Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

The report will be formally presented to the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 18 March 2013.

The International Fact-Finding Mission: Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was established by Human Rights Council Resolution 19/17.

On 22 March 2012, at its 19th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 19/17 entitled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan” by which the HRC decided to “dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

For the full 19/17 Resolution text: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/G12/130/13/PDF/G1213013.pdf?OpenElement

For further information: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session19/Pages/IsraeliSettlementsInTheOPT.aspx

(www.ohchr.org / 31.01.2013)

Drowning in the flood

Foreign governments and agencies are failing Syria’s refugees

THE governments of countries abutting Syria have long worried that the civil war there may spill over the border, stirring strife across the region. Whereas refugees were leaving Syria last year in a steady trickle, now they have become a flood. In the past few weeks as many as 5,000 people a day have been coming over. Entire villages are emptying out. The office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) previously said it reckoned 1m people would have fled Syria by June. But already more than 700,000 have done so—and that includes only those who have been registered. The UNHCR will have to reassess an already dire situation.

Agencies and host countries are struggling to cope. Most of the refugees are women and children. In Lebanon there are no official camps, so they lodge with families. Conditions in camps in Jordan and Iraq are grim. Earlier this year rainstorms and even snowy blizzards turned some camps into quagmires. Children died of cold. Some tents went up in flames as refugees stoked fires inside them to be warm.

For Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, which host nearly all the refugees, the cost is growing. Schools and hospitals are crowded. Neighbouring governments are still more worried by the political instability that a refugee influx invariably brings.

The Lebanese are bitterly divided over Syria. President Bashar Assad is backed by the Shia party-cum-militia, Hizbullah, but is hated by Lebanon’s Sunnis. Many Lebanese are afraid that the refugees may upset the country’s fragile sectarian balance.

Jordanians worry that Syrian and other jihadists will use their country as a base, stirring up Jordan’s own Islamists. Turkey is wary of fleeing Syrian Kurds, since it has long battled against its own large Kurdish minority. And Iraq’s Shia-dominated government fears that restless Iraqi Sunnis may be bolstered by their co-religionists fleeing from Syria, who make up the bulk of the fighting opposition to Mr Assad.

Matters have been made worse by the aid agencies’ lumbering reaction. Refugees have rioted over conditions at Zaatari, a camp in the Jordanian desert not far from the border. Médecins Sans Frontières, a French charity which is one of the few to work in rebel-held areas, where it runs field clinics, has complained that too little aid is getting through. This is because the UN works through the Syrian government and its authorised agencies, which tend to favour government-controlled areas. Governments including those in Europe and the Gulf have been slow to fulfil past pledges. The UNHCR says it has received only 3% of the $1.5 billion it has asked for to fund its work from now until June, though at a meeting in Kuwait on January 30th donors promised $1.5 billion, with the emir pledging $300m.

The rich world’s failure to embrace the refugees more generously mirrors the ineffectiveness of its diplomacy. “No one is willing to lead policy on Syria,” bemoans Salman Shaikh, who runs a centre in Qatar for the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington. “Other organisations can work in the north [of Syria], if the UN can’t. The opposition coalition has a plan for humanitarian aid but no one is giving them the money that was promised,” he says.

Western governments are still loth to arm the rebels. Meanwhile, a sea of tents is growing on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, where refugee camps are already bursting. And Jordan is turning back Palestinians fleeing from Syria, fearing lest they brew trouble among Jordan’s own disgruntled Palestinian people. The Jordanian government has threatened to shut the borders completely if the rate of incoming refugees gets even bigger.

On January 29th around 80 male corpses, their hands bound and heads holed with gunshot wounds, were pulled out of a river near Aleppo. Mr Assad is pummelling rebel-held areas such as the Damascus suburb of Daraya into rubble in his determination to keep them under his control. In such circumstances, the incentive to leave is plainly growing. Syria’s refugee crisis is out of hand.

(www.economist.com / 30.01.2013)

Het grote PvdA Midden-Oosten debat

locatie: Nieuwe Buitensociëteit, Stationsplein 1, Zwolle

datum 02 maart 2013, 12:00

De Partij van de Arbeid organiseert in samenwerking met de Alfred Mozer Stichting en deEvert Vermeer Stichting een groot debat over het Midden-Oosten. Diverse thema’s komen aan bod. Diederik SamsomFrans Timmermans (minister van Buitenlandse Zaken), Désirée Bonis en verschillende buitenlandse gasten zullen bij het debat aanwezig zijn.

Iedere dag komen de beelden uit het Midden-Oosten onze huiskamers binnen. Het Israëlisch-Palestijns conflict, de spanningen rondom het Iraanse nucleaire programma en het geweld in Syrië houden de regio in hun greep. Turkije positioneert zich als grootmacht in de regio. In veel landen in de regio nemen de Koerden een bijzondere positie in. Ondertussen is het twee jaar geleden nadat oude machthebbers werden verdreven uit Egypte en Tunesië en worstelen deze landen met de transitie.

In 2012 zette de PvdA haar standpunten ten aanzien van de regio uiteen in de internationale resolutie van de Commissie Schrijver. Tijdens het grote PvdA Midden-Oosten debat analyseren we de ontwikkelingen van het afgelopen jaar, zoomen we in op landen in de regio en debatteren we over de gewenste koers van de PvdA en de Nederlandse regering.

Voorlopig programma (meer details volgen)
12:00 – 12:30 Inloop en registratie
12:30 – 13:30 Opening met speech van Frans Timmermans en interview buitenlandse gast
13:30 – 14:30 Ronde 1

  • De burgeroorlog in Syrië: een analyse
  • De toekomst van de Koerden in Irak
  • Turkije als nieuwe grootmacht in de regio

14:30 – 15:00 Pauze
15:00 – 16:15 Ronde 2

  • Israël en Palestina: op weg naar een tweestaten oplossing? (voertaal Engels)
  • Iran: nucleaire dreiging en internationale respons
  • Een progressieve agenda voor Egypte en Tunesië (voertaal Engels)

16:15 – 17:00 Interview met buitenlandse gast en afsluitende speech Diederik Samsom
17:00 – 17:30 Borrel en gelegenheid om na te praten

Aanmelden kan via de reserveerlijn van de PvdA: 0900-9553. Je krijgt dan een keuzemenu te horen. Kies voor de reserveerlijn. Voor aanmelding heb je het nummer van deze bijeenkomst nodig: 5831 Houd uw postcode en relatienummer bij de hand. Als je geen relatienummer hebt, word je doorverbonden met een van onze medewerkers van de ledenadministratie (tijdens kantooruren).

Voor vragen of opmerkingen over deze bijeenkomst kun je een e-mail sturen naaris@pvda.nl.

(www.pvda.nl / 31.03.2012)

UN Human Rights Council: Settlement issue could end up in the International Criminal Court

“Unprecedented report calls for UN Member States “to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State breaching peremptory norms of international law.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council has published its fact finding mission’s report on the settlements. The report concludes that Israeli settlements are constructed for the benefits of Jews only through a system of ethnic segregation and military law, and are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory by the occupying force. According to the report:

Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions. It must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT.

Israel is a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention but has concluded that it does not apply to the territories occupied from Jordan and Egypt in 1967, since both countries abandoned any claims to this land. Israel considers the territories “disputed” (a position taken recently by the Levi Commission, which called upon Israel to legalized all outposts built on Palestinian land) However, even the Israeli narrative doesn’t explain ethnic segregation in the West Bank, military law and the absence of human or political rights for the non-Jewish civilian population in the West Bank.

There are two important articles in the HRC report which go beyond the usual condemnations of the settlements that have been issued for decades by the international community. First, the Human Rights Council calls upon other nations, agencies and companies to break ties with the settlement project – a step which might open the door for sanctions against settlement products or for the enforcement of relevant articles in trade agreements with Israel, for example by the European Union.

116. The Mission calls upon all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State breaching peremptory norms of international law – specifically not to recogniזe an unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s violations.

117. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations.

The report also explicitly suggests that the Palestinians could sue Israelis in theInternational Criminal Court could deal with the issue of the settlement. A press release on the Human Rights Council site states:

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law. The report also concludes that the Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the transfer of populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Israel has refused to cooperate with the fact-finding mission. The United States has warned the Palestinians in the past not to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, as part of its tradition of preventing any punitive action in response to human rights violations by Israel in the occupied territories. The United States was the only country that voted against the fact finding mission on the settlements.

Israel has been rapidly increasing settlement activities since the Oslo Accords, especially in the last decade. According to the Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim, 2012 has been a record year in settlement construction in East Jerusalem. On the eve of the Oslo Accords, there were approximately 107,00 thousands settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, and 115,000 in East Jerusalem. by 2001 these numbers grew to 200,000 in the West Bank and Gaza and 167,000 in East Jerusalem. In 2011 there were 189,000 settlers in and around East Jerusalem, and 324,000 settlers in the West Bank, bringing the total numbers of Jewish settlers to over half a million. There are 127 settlements in the West Bank alone, as well as dozens of Jewish “outposts.” The UN report calls Israel’s settlement activities “creeping annexation.”

(972mag.com / 31.01.2013)

Israeli settlers ‘clearly violating Palestinians’ rights’: UN report

The Israeli government’s settlement policy has clearly violated the rights of Palestinians and breaches one of the Geneva Conventions, a UN report says.

The United Nations’ first report on the broad policy of Israeli settlements called on Tel Aviv to halt the practice of “creeping annexation”.

Israel hit back accusing the body of bias.

In its report to the 47-nation Human Rights Council, a panel of investigators said Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the treaties that establish the ground rules for what is considered humane during wartime.

The Israeli government has persisted in settling Palestinian-occupied territories, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank, “despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation,” the report said.

The settlements are “a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” it concludes.

French judge Christine Chanet, who led the panel, said Israel did not co-operate with the probe, which the council ordered last March.

At a news conference, she called the report “a kind of weapon for the Palestinians” if they want to take up their grievances before The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Another panel member, Pakistani lawyer Asma Janangir, said the settlements “seriously impinge on the self-determination of the Palestinian people,” an offense under international humanitarian law.

The panel’s report was condemned by Israel, whose foreign ministry accused the council of taking a systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel, with the report being merely “another unfortunate reminder” of that bias.

“The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions,” the ministry said. “Counter-productive measures – such as the report before us – will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

(www.irishexaminer.com / 31.01.2013)

Israel jailed my friend Hassan Karajah to break the grassroots struggle

Hassan Karajah

At 2:30am on Wednesday, 24 January, the Israeli military attacked a home in the West Bank village ofSaffa. Along with stealing computers, mobile phones and personal documents, Israeli soldiers beat, handcuffed and blindfolded our friend and comradeHassan Karajah.

The youth coordinator of Stop the Wall and a well-liked, well-respected activist and human rights defender, Hassan was taken into the night, without being told why, without the medications he relies on because of a previous injury, and without charge.

My first meeting with Hassan, in May of last year, took place under a cloud of justified suspicion about who I was and why I was standing in the Ramallah office of Stop the Wall. Several hours before the start of my first day as a volunteer, the Israeli army raided the office and stole several computers and other property. Thankfully, on that occasion, no one was taken away to face interrogation and an uncertain fate in Zionist dungeons.

Baptism of fire

Nevertheless, I remember that first encounter with Hassan, and the way in which he looked me over with thinly veiled suspicion, and, turning to others in the office, inquired about my identity. Although I was vouched for, the coincidence of an Israeli raid and my first appearance at the office all happening within a few hours of each other was bad timing, and I was left with no time for a gradual introduction to the work of the campaign. Instead, I had a baptism of fire and set about trying to ensure that the world heard of this flagrant attack on human rights activists in the heart of the Area A — part of the West Bank where Palestinians had supposedly been granted “autonomy” under the Oslo accords.

The following days, weeks and months were marked by the names of heroic hunger strikers in Israeli jails — Hana al-ShalabiKhader AdnanThaer HalahlehBilal Diab — but also punctuated with the sound of Hassan’s constant singing in the office, and the sight of his spontaneous dabke (Palestinian traditional dance).

In an interview I did with him shortly after the raid on our offices, published by The Electronic Intifada, Hassan predicted further repression against Stop the Wall and Palestinian activists in general.

“If we are able to keep the current momentum of popular mobilization and international attention created for our struggle and are able to successfully build on it, then they will be even more scared of us; and in Stop the Wall we predict more repression to follow the last office raid,” he said.

Indeed one act of Israeli repression follows the last, as night follows day. However, as each act of repression irrevocably alters the lives of Palestinians, so too do Palestinians resist their displacement and strain to challenge the colonial prison warders and soldiers.


The recent protest camps of Bab al-Shams and Bab al-Karama, which sought to reassert Palestinian ownership of the land, are examples of the inventiveness of Palestinian resistance in the face of a relentless onslaught of ethnic cleansing.

The Israeli government’s commitment to the E-1 plan, which will extend the construction of illegal settlements to completely cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank is but one example of the Zionist plan to ensure complete domination and theft of all of Palestine.

It is in the context of the E-1 plan, the intensification of the ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley and other parts of Area C — a zone covering 60 percent of the West Bank, under full Israeli military control — and the continuous Palestinian resistance to these crimes, that we can view Hassan’s arrest and other acts of repression and violence this month, during which the Israeli military murdered six unarmed Palestinians.

Hassan has many friends, in Palestine and outside, and countless comrades who have never met him and may never have heard his name until now. We owe it to him, and to every Palestinian in Israeli jails and ghettoes, to isolate Israel however we can, particularly through boycott, divestment and sanctions.

G4S is one obvious target: the British-Danish security firm is guilty of providing key infrastructure for the Israeli occupation. It provides subcontracted services at checkpointsand during the transportation of prisoners, as well as prison facilities.


I think it was while I was taking a photograph of Hassan for the interview I mentioned earlier, or at some point shortly afterwards, that he joked about how he needed a good photograph for the poster that we would make when he was eventually arrested by Israel. We laughed at the time, me uncomfortably. It was one of those moments that now seems so poetic and prescient. It is depressingly predictable that words that so easily could have been forgotten have come to pass.

But though there are now posters with his face on them, this is no eulogy for a martyr. Hassan is alive, and though isolation, interrogation and beatings in the cells of the Moscobiyyeh detention center in Jerusalem (also known as the Russian Compound) and al-Jalameh will test him, they will not break him.

Hassan has been imprisoned just like Samer Issawi, who has been refusing food in protest against his administrative detention for more than 190 days. As my friend Mohammad al-Azraq writes in the International Socialist GroupPalestinian prisoners are “torches of freedom in the darkness of apartheid.”

Every day they demonstrate sumoud — that Palestinian quality usually translated as steadfastness — in the deepest recesses of the Zionist jails.

When confronted with the bravery of those who struggle against the suffocating weight of injustice, the Irish struggle against British colonialism and occupation offers a rich repertoire of battle cries and words of defiance. To borrow from the words of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands, writing in the H-Block cells of Long Kesh prison near Belfast, Israel has nothing in its whole colonial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Palestinian who does not want to be broken.

(Eoin O’Ceallaigh / electronicintifada.net / 31.01.2013)

Israel airstrike “unmasks” truth of Syria conflict: Hezbollah


A Syrian Turkmen rebel aims his weapon from the rooftop of a building in the Hanano district of the northern city of Aleppo on January 28, 2013.

The Israeli air strike on Syria has “unmasked” the true origins of the bloody conflict in the country, its closest ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, said on Thursday.

Russia also condemned the attack, warning that any Israeli air strike against Syria would be “unacceptable.”

Sources said on Wednesday that Israeli jets bombed a convoy near Syria’s border with Lebanon, apparently targeting weapons destined for Hezbollah. Syria denied the reports, saying the target had been a military research center.

“Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the general command said.

The warplanes entered Syria’s airspace at low altitude and under the radar, the army said, adding that two site workers were killed.

“They… carried out an act of aggression, bombarding the site, causing large-scale material damage and destroying the building,” state television quoted the military as saying.

Hezbollah said Wednesday’s attack “fully unmasked what has been happening in Syria over the past two years and the criminal objectives of destroying this country and weakening its army.”

Hezbollah, in a statement, said it “forcefully condemns this new Zionist aggression against Syria,” in what was the first such Israeli strike since a deadly anti-regime revolt broke out in March 2011.

The attack unveiled Israel’s policy of preventing “Arab and Muslim forces from boosting their military and technological capacities,” it said.

“Hezbollah expresses its full solidarity with Syria’s leadership, army and people,” it said in a statement.

The Syrian army said an Israeli strike targeted a “scientific research center” near Damascus, with local residents telling AFP it was a non-conventional weapons research center.

Hezbollah said the attack showed that the conflict in Syria, where Assad is confronting an armed uprising, was part of a scheme “to destroy Syria and its army and foil its pivotal role in the resistance front (against Israel)”.

The attack should make Assad’s opponents realize the danger of targeting Syria, Hezbollah said, and focus instead on “political dialogue as the sole basis to halt the bloodshed”.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the Syrian claims and that it was taking “urgent measures” to clarify the situation.

“If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification,” said a ministry statement.

The strident Russian statement came after the Syrian army accused Israel of launching a strike at dawn on Wednesday targeting its military research center in Jamraya, near Damascus.

Israeli officials have declined to comment.

The United States, which is currently hosting Israeli military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi, also declined to comment.

The attack took place just days after Israel moved two batteries of its vaunted Iron Dome missile defense system to the north and at a time of rising fears that the Syria conflict could see chemical weapons leaking into Lebanon.

A former intelligence chief with Israel’s Mossad spy service said the Jewish state “should make any effort to prevent any weapons systems of that kind going out to terror organizations.”

(english.al-akhbar.com / 31.01.2013)

Biden to meet Russian FM, Syrian opposition leader

Biden's meetings on Syria come as fears mount that the vicious sectarian war could spill over into other countries. (Reuters)

Biden’s meetings on Syria come as fears mount that the vicious sectarian war could spill over into other countries.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will discuss the carnage in Syria in meetings on Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Syrian opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib, the White House said.

Biden will hold the meetings on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday afternoon, on a trip that will also include talks with the leaders of Germany, France and Britain.

His meetings on Syria come as fears mount that the vicious sectarian war could spill over into other countries, and after an Israeli raid on targets variously described as a military research center and a weapons convoy.

While not confirming the targets of the Israeli air raid, the White House also warned on Thursday that Syria’s government should not transfer arms to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia.

“Syria should not further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah,” said Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security advisor.

Rhodes, asked about Iranian and Syrian threats to retaliate against Israel, said that such rhetoric from Tehran showed how concerned leaders there were about the prospect of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime falling.

Officials said that Biden, in his meetings in Munich would discuss getting more humanitarian aid into Syria where 60,000 people have now been killed in violence which sparked a refugee crisis.

Biden will also discuss the political way forward, and ask Russia for to acknowledgement that the Assad’s regime must fall.

Washington has denounced Russia’s opposition to United Security Council efforts to reach a global consensus on the need for Assad to leave.

(english.alarabiya.net / 31.01.2013)

Report: Meshal says Hamas accepts a two-state solution

Hamas political leader in Damascus reportedly authorized King Abdullah of Jordan to convey his acceptance of two states for two peoples, based on the 1967 borders, to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshal.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshal waves to Palestinian student during his visit to the Islamic University in Gaza City December 9, 2012.

In this file photo, King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Hamas’ Khaled Meshal at the Royal Palace in Amman.

Khaled Meshal, head of the Syrian branch of Hamas’ political bureau, has reportedly accepted the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has authorized King Abdullah of Jordan to convey the message on his behalf to U.S. President Barack Obama. His new stance marks a dramatic shift in Hamas’ position on the long-standing conflict.

The revelation comes according to a report in the Saudi newspaper “Al-Sharq,” which cited Jordanian sources, who said Meshal accepted the idea during a meeting this week with the Jordanian king.

The meeting is also said to have covered Palestinian reconciliation and relations with Jordan. So far neither Hamas nor Jordan has officially verified the Saudi report, but Meshal’s public statement after the meeting, in which he said, “Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine, and any talks about relations between a Palestinian state and Jordan will only be held after the establishment of a Palestinian state,” more than hint at an essential change in Hamas’ position.

To date, Hamas has rejected the two-state solution, although it welcomed the Arab peace initiative whose core was the existence of two states based on the 1967 borders. In the past, however, Meshal has stressed that the 1967 borders are only a first step in the ultimate liberation of all of Palestine. This change in position is an extension of a previous shift in orientation in which Hamas, after fierce opposition, decided to support Mahmoud Abbas’ effort to gain international acceptance of Palestine as a non-member observer nation in the United Nations.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian official in charge of negotiations with Israel, responded to the report and said he is taking Meshal’s statement very seriously. He said he welcomed Hamas’ acceptance of the two-state solution, adding that “the change in position stems from the fact that Hamas understands that joining the PLO obligates it to act on the basis of the PLO’s political program, whose starting point is the two-state solution in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Using King Abdullah as an intermediary, Erekat added, makes a great deal of sense.

“The world must understand that Jordan is the Palestinians’ partner and we welcome the king’s meetings with Palestinian leaders,” he said. Erekat also made a demand of Hamas, insisting that this new position serve as a joint platform underpinning negotiations with the Israeli government.

King Abdullah and President Obama are scheduled to meet in February, and the king is expected to convey Meshal’s message at that time.

Should the report be verified, it will present one of the highest hurdles yet for intra-Palestinian reconciliation, which has been fractured by a deep rift between Hamas and Fatah figures for several years.

At the next stage, the two sides would have to agree to resolve another fundamental principle: the electoral process. Fatah’s Abbas is demanding an election and the establishment of a Palestinian government before Hamas joins the PLO, whereas Hamas is demanding that a government be established before an election, allowing the organizations to first apportion areas of responsibility and resolve the issue of joint military mechanisms.

But given the heavy pressure that both Egypt and Qatar are exerting on Hamas to move forward with Palestinian reconciliation, the problem may be solved in the near future. The Palestinians also have a vested interest in presenting a united front to both the United States and Israel before Israel forms its new government. Such an accomplishment, should the Palestinians be able to achieve it, would likely affect the coalition talks.

(www.haaretz.com / 31.01.2013)