Opinion: Gaza’s Siege Intensifies: The Plan to ‘Moderate’ Hamas, Control Gaza – by Ramzy Baroud

On September 17, 2012, Ismail Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, made another appeal to his Egyptian counterpart Hisham Kandil to consider setting up a free trade area between Gaza and Egypt.

The reasonable idea would allow Egypt to support Gaza’s ragged economy while sparing Cairo the political fallout from destroying hundreds of tunnels that provide 1.6 million Palestinians a lifeline under a continued Israeli siege. Palestinians in Gaza rely on goods smuggled through tunnels and to a lesser extent United Nations handouts to survive.

“We explained the concept in detail (..) the idea is to alleviate the economic hardship in Gaza,” Hamas official, Taher al-Nono was then quoted in Reuters. Kandil promised to look into the matter, indicating that it was too early for a response.

However this proposal was introduced before and repeatedly after the September meeting. It should have at least served as the basis for a serious platform of discussion regarding future cooperation between Gaza and Egypt on this urgent matter. But Cairo neither responded nor offered an alternative to end Gaza’s seemingly perpetual misery.

Even worse, for several months now and notably since the deadly August 5 attack in Sinai by unknown assailants – which killed 16 Egyptian border guards – the Egyptian army has actively been destroying Gaza’s tunnels.

According to a Gaza-based economist Maher Al-Tabbaa, “30 percent of Gaza’s goods come from the tunnels.” But other estimates, cited by Reuters, place the food reliance on smuggling at 80 percent. Without tunnels, and no real, long term alternative, Gaza will delve deeper into poverty and the crisis will likely reach unprecedented levels.

But why is post-revolution Egypt maintaining the very policy of isolating Gaza which was first espoused by former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak?

Despite grave humanitarian repercussions of the siege, the subject is essentially political. Following the demise of the Mubarak regime, a sense of euphoria was felt in Gaza and across the region that a revolutionary government – especially one headed by the Muslim Brotherhood – is likely to reverse an enriched legacy historically financed and guarded by American money and political leverage.

The price of the Camp David treaty signed between Egypt and Israel in 1978-79 was meant to turn Egypt into a permanent political asset for Washington and Tel Aviv in exchange for a fixed amount of money which arrives mostly in the form of military aid. Mubarak had indeed delivered and the late Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was the personification of that American success.

When Israel imposed a siege on Gaza following Hamas’ election victory in 2006, it mattered little that Egypt and Gaza had a shared border. Israel seemed entirely comfortable that the Mubarak regime was on board, while Palestinians in the Strip subsisted between occasional war and economic hardship.

To suggest that Hamas orchestrated the murder of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai – which served as the army’s cue to further cut off Gaza – is to have no understanding whatsoever of the collective psychology of Palestinians in the Strip who continue to see Egypt as an oasis of political hope and economic salvation. Moreover, the cultural and religious rapports between Gaza and Egypt – which administrated the Strip for decades between 1948 and 1967 – is easily discounted.

Overwhelmed by the persisting attempts at its removal from power, the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Mursi continue to approach matters concerning Palestinians with utmost caution.

Their detractors have dedicated much energy and time to smear Palestinians, Hamas and Gaza in much of Egypt’s privately owned media. Bizarre propaganda of completely besieged Palestinians in Gaza smuggling weapons and drugs to the Sinai is creating a state of confusion among many Egyptians regarding Gaza and its role in Egyptian security chaos.

Too timid to challenge the many forces at play in Egypt, Mursi’s government is offering little by way of helping Gaza overcome its isolation. This hesitance has proven costly. Using the pretence of protecting Egypt’s national security, the army is actively destroying the tunnels under the leadership of defence minister Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Reporting in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on April 6, Zvi Bar’el estimated that 250 tunnels were destroyed in March, while 76 were flooded with sewage, “after locating them by means of satellite information, probably in cooperation with the United States.”

‘Probably’ is an understatement, as the US government – and other western powers – invested much funds and expertise in ensuring that Gaza is fully quarantine. Throughout most of 2011, it was simply unthinkable in Gaza that Egypt would continue actively cooperating with western intelligence to keep Hamas isolated.

In 2012 and especially after the August attack in the Sinai, it became clear that whatever forces that were yielded by the January 2011 revolution, were simply too weak to impact reality on the ground. According to Haaretz, “Egypt’s political (and) military leadership (is) divided over support for Hamas.” The longer that division persists, the deeper Gaza sinks into despair.

Naturally, some regional and international forces are actively investing in the Egyptian division, wishing to tame Hamas’ political independence.

And indeed there are signs that Hamas is now catering to outside powers in an attempt to preserve itself and withstand the pressures that preceded and followed its exit from Damascus as a result of the uprising-turned-civil war in Syria.

Some media report that Khaled Meshaal’s reinstatement as the Hamas political chief would not have been possible without heavy pressure from the head of Egyptian intelligence Gen. Raafat Shehata. With Meshaal at the helm, the normalisation between Hamas and Jordan and Qatar (a major Hamas funder), among other regional powers, is likely to continue.

Moreover, according to Adel Zaanoun, reporting for Agence France Presse on April 3, based on regional experts’ opinions, Meshaal’s re-elections “may better Hamas ties with (the) West.” The fact that the Hamas elections, took place in Cairo, one analyst suggested “is proof that Egypt will support the movement in opening it up to the West.”

It is possible that the price to be exacted from the Brotherhood to end regional and western interference in Egyptian affairs will also include bringing Hamas inline. While Hamas’ Gaza leadership are being denied access to any possible economic independence, some Hamas leaders outside are being propped up as suitable ‘moderate’ candidates in any possible Hamas-western normalization in the future.

That dependency is being slowly but cleverly crafted, as it’s aimed at exacting political ‘compromises’ from Hamas in the long run.

And as if the Israeli siege and the destruction of tunnels are not enough, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recently announced a distribution cutoff of basic aid to 25,000 Gaza refugees, a decision that “could exacerbate hardship caused by Israeli and Egyptian controls on the isolated enclave’s borders,” reported Al Jazeera on April 5.

Without alternative economic venues in the face of Israel’s land and sea blockade, Egypt’s crackdown on the tunnels and UNRWA’s budget cuts, the Hamas Gaza leadership is likely to seek alternatives in the form of handouts which will come at a political price.

In the long run, Hamas will face difficult options, including splitting up or following the same detrimental path on which Fatah and the PLO found themselves, leading up to the Oslo ‘peace’ fiasco starting in 1993. Only a constructive end to the Egyptian political deadlock could offer Hamas in Gaza a third, more dignified alternative and that is to be seen.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Did the Prophet plan genocide against Jews? The story of Banu Qurayza

Jews and Muslims make peace

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

Question:

Your prophet committed genocide (extermination of an entire race) against the Jews of Medina and the tribe Banu Qurayza.

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The Prophet was in conflict with some specific Jewish tribes in Medina due to their aiding the Meccan aristocracy in a war of extermination against the Muslim community. After the battle, the Prophet chose Sa’d ibn Mu’adh to pass judgment upon the fighting men, which Sa’d did according to the law of the Torah.

Ibn Umar reported:

أَنَّ يَهُودَ بَنِي النَّضِيرِ وَقُرَيْظَةَ حَارَبُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَأَجْلَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَنِي النَّضِيرِ وَأَقَرَّ قُرَيْظَةَ وَمَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ حَتَّى حَارَبَتْ قُرَيْظَةُ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ

The Jews of Banu Nadeer and Banu Quraiza waged war against the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, so he expelled Banu Nadeer but he allowed Banu Quraiza to stay and he granted them favor until they also waged war after that.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1766 Grade: Sahih

The aggression of the Banu Qurayza tribe was the reason the Muslims attacked them, not simply because they were Jewish. This is confirmed by Dr. Marco Schöller:

The Muslim attack and siege of the Qurayẓa was a response to their open, probably active support of the Meccan pagans and their allies during the battle (of the trench).

Source: Schöller, Marco. “Qurayẓa (Banū al-).” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān.

The judgment against them upon their defeat was that the fighting men who participated in the battle were killed and the women and children were taken into the custody of the Muslims.

Sa’d ibn Mu’adh passed judgment saying:

قَالَ تَقْتُلُ مُقَاتِلَتَهُمْ وَتَسْبِي ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ

Their combatants will be killed and their progeny taken as captives.

Source: Source: Sahih Muslim 1768 Grade: Sahih

Sa’d judged only that “their fighting men” (muqatilatahum) should be executed as an act of self-defense for the Muslim community. The women and children were taken into custody due to the fact that they would have no one to care for them; to abandon them would have itself been a death sentence. This ruling was based upon the Torah, the Jewish holy book, which reads:

But if the city makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the Lord your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you.

Source: Deuteronomy 20:12-14

In our times, this ruling seems very harsh and unmerciful, but in the context of 7th century Arabia, these types of action were necessary for the Muslim community who faced the constant threat of extermination. Scholars of history understand that such was the nature of justice in a rough desert environment:

Most scholars of this episode agree that neither party acted outside the bounds of normal relations in 7th century Arabia. The new order brought by Muhammad was viewed by many as a threat to the age-old system of tribal alliances, as it certainly proved to be. For the Banu Qurayza, the end of this system seemed to bring with it many risks. At the same time, the Muslims faced the threat of total extermination, and needed to send a message to all those groups in Medina that might try to betray their society in the future. It is doubtful that either party could have behaved differently under the circumstances.

Source: PBS “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet.”

Furthermore, as only the fighting men were killed, there were several male members of the Banu Qurayza tribe who survived because they did not participate in the battle, either because they were too young or they surrendered before the fighting began.

Ibn Umar reported:

فَقَتَلَ رِجَالَهُمْ وَقَسَمَ نِسَاءَهُمْ وَأَوْلَادَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُمْ بَيْنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ إِلَّا أَنَّ بَعْضَهُمْ لَحِقُوا بِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَآمَنَهُمْ وَأَسْلَمُوا

Thus, the Prophet killed their fighting men and he distributed their women, children, and property among the Muslims except for some of them who had joined the Messenger of Allah and so he granted them protection and they embraced Islam.

Many of the male descendants of Qurayza lived, some of them embracing Islam, which is proof that the Prophet did not commit genocide (extermination of an entire race), but rather he only approved the execution of their combatants as an act of self-defense.

This is confirmed by Dr. Marco Schöller:

The Islamic tradition knows a number of descendants from the Qurayẓa by name, most famous among them being the traditionist Muḥammad b. Kaʿb al-Quraẓī, who was born a Muslim and died in Medina in 120/738 or some years before. Others include his father Kaʿb ibn Asad ibn Sulaym and his brother Isḥāq, as well as ʿAṭiyya al-Quraẓī, al-Zubayr ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Zabīr, ʿAlī ibn Rifāʿa and the progeny of Abū Malik al-Quraẓī. This suggests that… several male persons of the Qurayẓa did survive the conflict in Medina, probably because of their young age at the time.

Source: Schöller, Marco. “Qurayẓa (Banū al-).” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān.

In addition, even though the Muslims suffered this bitter conflict with the Jewish tribes of Medina, this did not diminish the Prophet’s teachings of kindness and good character toward Jewish neighbors. In fact, the Prophet died will in the middle of a business contract with a Jew.

Aisha reported:

تُوُفِّيَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَدِرْعُهُ مَرْهُونَةٌ عِنْدَ يَهُودِيٍّ بِثَلَاثِينَ صَاعًا مِنْ شَعِيرٍ

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, passed away while his armor was mortgaged to a Jew for thirty units of barley.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 2759 Grade: Sahih

This tradition is proof that the Prophet continued to maintain friendly relations with Jews even after the incident with Qurayza and until his death. Likewise, the Prophet’s companions continued this tradition of amicability after him.

Mujahid reported: I was with Abdullah ibn Amr while his servant was skinning a sheep. He said, “O boy, when you finish up, then start with the Jewish neighbor.” A man there exclaimed, “Jewish? May Allah correct you!” He replied:

إِنِّي سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُوصِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى خَشِينَا أَوْ رُئِينَا أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ

I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, recommending that we treat our neighbors well until we thought that he would order us to make them our heirs.

Source: Source: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 128 Grade: Hasan

In conclusion, the Prophet did not commit genocide against the Jews of Medina, nor did he intend for bad relations between Jews and Muslims in general. The conflict with the Banu Qurayza tribe was only due to the specific aggression suffered by the Muslims and not merely because they were Jews. The Prophet continued to maintain friendly relations with Jews even after this bitter conflict and this tradition was continued by his companions.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

IOF soldiers chop down 350 trees south of Al-Khalil

 

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) chopped down around 350 almond and olive trees near Daheriya town, south of Al-Khalil, on Tuesday morning.

Director of public relations in Daheriya municipality Mohammed Raba said that the soldiers chopped down 100 olive trees and 250 almond trees in Midemana area in Daheriya.

He said that the soldiers after destroying the trees, owned by two brothers in the village, sprayed poisonous chemicals on them. He said that the two brothers were not notified beforehand of the act.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Has the Arab League mortally wounded itself by declaring war on Syria?

arab-league

 

Damascus — Frankly, it never was much of a “League” of Arab states.

And arguably it never really achieved a whole lot but two dozen lavish
‘summits’ offering inflated rhetoric, often calculated to assuage the Arab
people about their central cause, Palestine.

This, despite high hopes across Arabia when its founders promulgated a
Charter on March 22, 1945 and took a solemn oath to prevent the theft of
Palestine by European colonists. Yet, notions of fundamental fairness
require that we all acknowledge, that to its credit, the Arab League has
tried to achieve a modicum of pan-Arab cooperation on issues involving
economic and financial affairs, commercial relations, customs, currency,
questions of agriculture and industry, communications including railroads,
roads, aviation, navigation, postal services, cultural affairs, nationality,
passports, visas, execution of judgments, extradition of criminals and
even a bit regarding social affairs and health issues.

Despite years of pledges to eliminate visas requirements, along the lines of

the European Shengen Visa, it should be noted that only one Arab country

has waived visas for their Arab sisters and brothers internationally.

That would be the Syrian Arab Republic.

It is Syria, along with Palestine, out of all the 22 Arab League members,
who most consistently and steadfastly have represented Arab Nationalism,
Arab resistance to occupation, and the stated goals enunciated 66 years ago
when the Arab League was established.

Many are asking why the ‘sanctions of its members-happy’ Arab League
consistently fails to act on what is happening in Palestine and why it never
has kept its pledge to suspend the AL membership of countries that host
Israeli embassies against their people’s will.

There was once upon a time, now appearing far, far, away, that the Arab
League countries were trying to achieve the liberation of Palestine. Or so
they claimed. Then suddenly, the association morphed into twenty countries
claiming to being committed to solving the issues of Palestine and Lebanon.
Low and behold it was not so long after that the Arab League became
nineteen countries trying to solve the questions of Palestine, Lebanon and
Somalia.

How we all change with time. This week, during the 24th “Arab Summit”
eleven countries, being pressured by outside interests with hegemonic
geopolitical visions for the region, claimed they wanted to solve life’s
problems on behalf of the other members.

If there is an Arab summit ten years from now, what will its agenda be like?

This week the global community saw that the Charter and by-laws of the
Arab League, despite its mission to bring together Arabs, has been ignored
with respect to the Syrian crisis from the beginning. Rather it has been
actively working to prevent coming together especially with respect to
Syria.

The organization was created at the time when a racist Zionist state was
considered extremely unlikely by most countries but to make sure, an
association of Arab states was organized to prevent, at all costs, the rumored
project from becoming a reality. The first decision of the newly established
League of Arab States was to boycott any European-financed Zionist
movement or organization that might assist in the theft of Palestine.

Today unfortunately, and perhaps fatally for the AL, the complete obverse
has obtained. In countless ways the Arab League is supporting the occupation
of Palestine, while allowing itself to be preempted and shaped into an
instrument of Western foreign policy as it plots against its own members.
Far removed from its raison d’etre, which according to its Charter is to ensure
a coming together of its members, it does everything that would promote
the desires of the Zionist occupiers of Palestine while dividing the Arabs and
preventing any kind of real union among them.

Much as the USA and its allies have corralled and preempted the UN Security
Council, its agents have hijacked the League of Arab states and five other
regional organizations. According to a congressional source who follows this
issue, another international organization that has entered the sights of these
Western hegemonic forces is the revitalized Non-aligned Movement (NAM),
currently chaired by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Some Arab League analysts claim that here won’t be much left of the Arab
League by 2020. One joke currently making the rounds on Capitol Hill is
“Which will implode first, the Arab League or its master, the Zionist
occupiers of Palestine?” Answer: “Too close to call.”

Last week in Doha, Qatar, the proceedings amounted to a self-inflicted,
perhaps fatal wound for the Arab League when it essentially declared war
on one of its founding members, Syria, and replaced it with a Western-funded,
staffed, and armed group with not the faintest pretense of abiding by its
Charter, including Article VIII, a main pillar of the concept of a League of
Arab States:

“Each member-state shall respect the systems of government
established in the other member-states and regard them as exclusive
concerns of those states. Each shall pledge to abstain from any action
calculated to change established systems of government.”
In summary, there is nothing in the Arab League Charter permitting that
body to expel or even sanction Syria. In fact, doing so violates the Charter.
As seen many times, most recently in Libya, foreign intervention is never
humanitarian but rather is always geo-political.

Is it now left to the BRICS states — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa — to stand up to the AL and to help halt the conflict in Syria? There
is growing sentiment in Syria that this group of five emerging powers may
become a major hope for the Syrian people suffering from blatant Western
intervention in their affairs and from the Arab League acting against their
interests. The AL members who voted to expel or sanction Syria are merely
channeling the geo-political interests of the United States and Israel,
which, ironically, are increasingly being viewed among the Arab pubic as
“unofficial members” of the Arab League.

On the other hand, It should be clear that if democracy is about anything,
it’s about self-determination and that the best hope for peace in Syria is
that it is the Syrian people, not outsiders, who should be left to solve Syria’s
internal problems by themselves.

There is no escaping the fact that the result of the decisions made in Doha
is that the Arab League has refused a peaceful settlement for Syria and that
the AL recognition of the national coalition as the only legitimate
representative of the Syrian people contradicts the Geneva Communique
and, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out this week,
makes irrelevant the mission of UN and Arab League mediator for Syria,
Lakhdar Brahimi.

Given that one of the founders of the mandate, the Arab League, proclaims
that the national opposition is now the only legitimate Government of Syria,
and advocates the arming of its forces to oust the regime, how can there be
negotiations? This decision to supply arms to the Syrian opposition
not only violates international law, but again in the words of Lavrov, “is a
blatant encouragement of confrontation of the irreconcilable forces on both
sides to make them fight this war to the bitter end.”

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Palestinian academics, teachers and writers welcome TUI boycott Israel call

pacbi-logo

Palestinian unions representing lecturers, university employees, teachers and writers have praised the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) for its endorsement of an academic boycott of Israel.

In a letter saluting the TUI, the Palestinians said the clarity of the union’s statement was “unprecedented”. They also highlighted the importance of such solidarity actions, invoking Irish support for those struggling against South African apartheid many years ago. (The full text of the letter is below.)

At its annual conference last Thursday, the TUI voted unanimously to support the request for an academic boycott that has been made by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society. The union calls on its members to “cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes”.

The motion refers to Israel as an “apartheid state”. It calls on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) to build on its previous work and to “step up its campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the apartheid state of Israel until it lifts its illegal siege of Gaza and its illegal occupation of the West Bank, and agrees to abide by International law and all UN resolutions against it”.

The TUI will embark on awareness-raising with its members, many of whom are third-level academics in the Institutes of Technology, about the importance of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Jim Roche, TUI member and proposer of the motion, welcomed the Palestinian statement. “This letter demonstrates how crucial international solidarity and action is in supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice,” he said. “This is part of a broader BDS campaign whose aim is to pressurise the Israeli state to abide by international law. The TUI motion is historic and very welcome and we hope that other academic unions in Ireland and in the EU follow suit.”

Mr. Roche continued: “Such a ringing endorsement from Palestine should motivate all involved to do their utmost to ensure the TUI decision is just the beginning. As Palestinian education is under constant attack by Israel, people who care about human rights must act in its defence. This boycott is not an attack on academic freedom – it’s an attempt to protect it.”

FULL TEXT OF PALESTINIAN LETTER

Palestinian Academics, Teachers and Writers Salute the Teachers Union of Ireland

7 April 2013

We, representatives of academics, teachers and writers in the occupied Palestinian territory, salute the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) for its principled support for the cause of justice in Palestine by voting unanimously, at its Annual Congress on 4th April 2013, to endorse the Palestinian call for the academic boycott of Israel. Becoming the first academic union in Europe to formally adopt the academic boycott cause, the TUI has revived the noble legacy of Irish support for the boycott against South African apartheid and bolstered international support for the Palestinian call, endorsed by an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society, to apply effective pressure on Israel and hold it accountable for its system of occupation, colonization and apartheid that violates international law and fundamental human rights.

Given the deep complicity of Israel’s academic institutions in planning, implementing, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people, all these institutions should be boycotted and held to account, as the TUI has affirmed.

We are particularly heartened by the fact that the motion passed at your Congress is unequivocal; it calls on “all members to cease all cultural and academic collaboration with Israel, including the [institutional] exchange of scientists, students and academic personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programmes.” Such a clear and principled stand is unprecedented in the several years of academic boycott activism by unions and federations of academics across the world, and we are particularly grateful for such clarity and principled solidarity.

The sincere solidarity with Palestinian educators and indeed with the Palestinian people at large shown by Irish academic trade unionists is particularly welcome and timely in light of Israel’s recent escalation of its colonial and racist policies against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, for the last six decades, Israel has treated its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized racism that meets the UN definition of the crime of apartheid, while denying millions of Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed in 1948, their UN-sanctioned rights, including the right to return to their homes. At this time of exceptional Israeli brutality, impunity and war crimes against the indigenous Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, the TUI has risen to its moral responsibility by taking exceptional measures to hold Israel to account.

The TUI has proven beyond doubt, just as many leading Irish artists have in 2010, that effective solidarity with the oppressed, including by isolating the oppressor, is the most morally and politically sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and to promote human rights as well as a just future for all.

Signed,

– Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)

– General Union of Palestinian Teachers (represents primary & secondary education teachers)

– University Teachers’ Association (Gaza)

– General Union of Palestinian Writers

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Administrative Detention in Israel: Palestinians Behind Bars with No Recourse to Justice

Hundreds of Palestinians are kept behind bars in Israel without charges having been filed and with no access to a fair trial. Not even their lawyers are allowed to look at the evidence. Some governments in the West have expressed their concern, but the Israelis haven’t budged.

The cell is only a few square meters in size and there are no windows. A mattress lies on the floor; a hole in the floor for prisoners’ needs, cynically called a “Turkish toilet” is next to it.

Mohammed Othman has been held in Kishon Detention Center in northern Israel for almost a month. But neither he nor his lawyer knows exactly what he is being accused of. Othman is locked up as an administrative detainee — called Maazar Minhali in Hebrew — and is one of around 335 Palestinians currently in the same position.

According to a report from the human rights organization B’Tselem, more than a third of such administrative detainees remain behind bars for longer than six months, a further third longer than a year. Eight percent stay locked up for at least two years. The Israeli army has confirmed the numbers, but emphasizes that they have been dropping in recent years.

Allegedly Incriminating Evidence

Nevertheless, the practice is problematic for a democracy such as Israel’s. Military judges decide if the detention will be prolonged — and for the most part they merely rubberstamp the motions filed by the military attorneys, who, for their part, received information from Shabak, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency. The allegedly incriminating evidence is not shared with the detainees or with their legal representation.

The material is secret and cannot be shared with the accused due to “security concerns,” an Israeli army spokesperson said. He acknowledged, however, that such military hearings “are without a doubt subject to error.” In other words, one cannot speak of a fair trial.

The Salem military court in the northern part of the West Bank has already extended Mohammed Othman’s detention three times. According to Israeli law, it is possible to imprison a Palestinian for 90 days without charge. And a judge in a military court of appeal can extend that period of detention for another 90 days.

The latest hearing in the Othman case was on Monday of this week. While Judge Eliahu Nimni did not give the intelligence agents the 23 days they had asked for to interrogate their prisoner, he did rule that the detention be extended by 10 days. After hearing Othman’s lawyer’s testimony, Judge Nimni said that these 10 days were necessary to clarify the “suspicions” against the Palestinian. Letting Othman go would be a security risk, he said.

Terrible Conditions

The organization Addameer arranged for Othman to have a lawyer represent him. The 33-year-old complained to his attorney about the terrible conditions in prison, and said he was interrogated for hours at a time. On one occasion, Oct. 15, he was grilled from 1:45 p.m. until 1:20 a.m. When Othman fell asleep on his chair out of exhaustion, his interrogators poured water over his head, he says.

Othman still doesn’t know what he is being accused of. He told his lawyer that he has not been confronted with any concrete dates, names or events. What do they have on him? SPIEGEL ONLINE tried to find out from the domestic intelligence agency. “We cannot fulfil your request,” came the written reply. A telephone enquiry to ask how this lack of transparency could be compatible with the rule of law met with the reply by a spokeswoman: “It is all going according to law and order. Trust us!”

A number of Western embassies have had similar experiences. Sweden, which currently holds the six-month rotating president of the European Union, wasn’t even able to obtain a reason for the arrest. Sweden and other countries filed a protest.

The Israeli army stated that administrative arrests target terror suspects. But in the Othman case, that is highly doubtful. He was arrested on Sept. 22 as he attempted to travel over the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into the West Bank. He was returning from a visit to Norway where, among others, he met with Norwegian Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen.

‘Doesn’t Respect Peaceful Protests’

Several Western diplomats have vouched for his innocence. Othman is known for his strict policies of non-violence. In his hometown of Jayyous, he has organized protests against the construction of the security fence with which Israel is attempting to protect itself from terrorists. Othman and other activists have focused their protests against the route of the security fence, for which the Israelis have expropriated land that belongs to the Palestinians in Jayyous.

The fact that the Israelis have nabbed a supporter of non-violent protests has enraged some Western diplomats. “Many Palestinians are interpreting this as a sign that Israel doesn’t even respect peaceful protests,” a foreign observer said.

The government in Jerusalem has shrugged off the allegations. It isn’t even clear who has political responsibility for the policy of “administrative arrests.” After SPIEGEL ONLINE submitted questions to the Defense Ministry, it was referred to the prime minister’s office, which in turn told the reporter to ask the Justice Ministry, which then sent the reporter back to the Defense Ministry. In the end, the Defense Ministry provided no response.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

A West Bank village in protest against Israel’s military occupation

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery

Last month we drove northwest from Ramallah to visit the small village of Budrus, which gained international attention a decade ago when residents started protesting against the fence/wall erected by Israel.

Regular protests there against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continue, and clashes between village youths and members of the Israeli army have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence.

The main reason behind the protests is still the wall, described by the Israeli government as a security fence and by Budrus residents, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as an ‘apartheid wall’ and a way for the Israeli government to annex more Palestinian lands.

The majority of the wall is located inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In Budrus, it consists of rolls of barbed wire, multiple fences and sensors, and a road on the other side patrolled by Israeli military jeeps, all of which work to separate villagers from their farming lands.

There are no Israeli settlements or towns nearby, but Israeli troops regularly enter the village.  The encounters between them and Budrus residents can be fatal.

We visited the fresh grave of a 16-year-old boy, Samir ‘Awad, buried in the cemetery next to his school in the west of the village, about half a mile from the wall.

Scattered between the graves were different kinds of tear gas canisters shot by the Israeli army during confrontations.

Witnesses and village authorities told us that Samir’s life was cut short on 15 January 2013, when he was shot by Israeli soldiers with live ammunition, after he went through an opening in the first barbed wire fence while hanging out with his friends after finishing their exams.

“We used to go down to the fence and throw rocks at the sensors and try to cut parts of it. It is our way to protest the occupation,” Samir’s friend told Amnesty International.

Witnesses we spoke to claimed that the soldiers had ambushed the youths before shooting Samir in the back and head from close range without giving him a chance to get out of harm’s way. An inquiry by B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organization, found that the soldiers were not in any danger and shot Samir ‘Awad in contravention of open-fire regulations. This would mean that it was an unlawful killing.

The Israeli authorities’ first obligation is to conduct a thorough, independent, prompt and effective investigation, but Israel’s military investigations consistently fail to meet these international standards. Even though Israel’s military police have opened an investigation into Samir’s death, village residents believe that those responsible for killing him will not be held to account, as in so many other cases throughout the OPT.

This climate of impunity allows for daily abuses by Israeli forces in the OPT.

Villagers in Budrus told us that the whole population suffers from the effects of tear gas every time there is a confrontation with the Israeli army. The soldiers use it extensively, including inside the village, often firing directly at villagers and their homes even though this is against army regulations. Villagers choke on the gas and some have been hit by gas canisters and injured.

We had a taste of this ourselves. That afternoon in the cemetery, we had a panoramic view of a confrontation between several youths and a number of soldiers.

Three youths started walking towards four army vehicles parked behind the wall, throwing stones. However, before they got close to them they were intercepted by two soldiers fully equipped with weapons who entered the village through a gate in the wall, followed by a military vehicle. The soldiers began firing large amounts of tear gas.

My colleague filmed the beginning of the confrontation. As the tear gas reached us, many of the children around me started running away from the gas towards their homes.

My eyes started to water and burn with a stinging irritation, and I started to find it difficult to breathe.  My colleague who was filming had made good use of a scarf to cover his mouth and nose, but he was also suffering. His eyes were visibly watery and red and he could barely keep them open. I suggested he move away but he insisted on continuing to film as the soldiers descended on the four youth while firing more tear gas at them.

I decided to move away as the pain in my eyes was worsening, as were my breathing problems. I planned to walk as far away as possible until I could find an area in the village free from tear gas, then wait for my colleague to join me.

As I walked through the village I came across a group of children who had been playing football when I passed them earlier. They had stopped their game, covered their faces, and were rushing to their homes.

One of the children turned to look at me on the threshold of his house and said: “The gas affects us indoors too”.

I continued walking eastward, but the tear gas drifted in the same direction. When I reached the easternmost end of the village I realised that it was wishful thinking that I could escape its effects.

As I stood there waiting, my eyes were still in pain and the banging of the tear gas launchers could still be heard. The launcher was still shooting canisters when my colleague finally joined me about 40 minutes after the beginning of the incident. He had left the scene soon after I did, going to a home to interview a boy who had been injured in a previous confrontation with the army, but even inside, he said he could still feel the gas.

This persistent use and abuse of tear gas doesn’t make the headlines, but nobody should have to live day after day in such conditions, and the soldiers responsible for these daily abuses should be held accountable.

Above all, Palestinian victims of unlawful killings or injuries by Israeli forces deserve justice, reparations, and an end to impunity. Since Samir ‘Awad was killed, Israeli forces have shot and killed six more civilians in the West Bank, including two others under 18.

Without genuine investigations that are independent of the army and prosecution of suspected perpetrators, how many more civilians will be unlawfully killed and injured in the coming months?

We left a village totally engulfed in tear gas. Every villager that passed by had their face covered. One had a flock of sheep following him. I asked him if they get affected by the tear gas. “They die from it,” he replied.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Israeli military invade South Hebron Hills with tanks for military training

On 7th April around three kilometres from the Palestinian village of Al Majaz, the Israeli army conducted major training exercise with tanks and automatic weapons, using live ammunition. Al Majaz in the South Hebron Hills is in what the Israeli authorities refer to as ‘Firing Zone 918’, a closed military zone regularly used for training for the Israeli army and eight villages are at risk of eviction and destruction.

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Tanks visible in very close proximity to Palestinian shepherd and sheep

At least eight tanks and several armoured personnel carriers could be heard moving into the area during the night and at around 6am helicopters were seen over the village of Al Majaz. Between 6.30am and 7.30am at least thirty shots were fired from Merkava tanks – each creating a noise loud enough in the village to wake people and to scare birds from the trees. Hundreds of soldiers moved around the tanks and during this hour there was also a large amount of automatic gunfire.

The military troops moved between two hilltops to the east of Al Majaz, repeatedly firing weapons and driving military jeeps around the Palestinian villages of the South Hebron hills throughout the day. As this military exercise was particularly large, the villagers of Al Majaz had received a phone call from the Israeli army to inform them – but for other military training exercises, which occur at least once a week, the villagers state they are not notified.

Village life went on throughout the military exercise and children from Al Majaz had to travel to their school in the village of Al Fakheit several kilometres away. The children travel over the rocky terrain in a Unicef donated jeep which the military have in the past threatened to confiscate, stating that it is not permitted in the area. Upon reaching the school, the children still had to listen to the sound of tank- and gun-fire, easily audible even from their classrooms.

There are twelve villages in Firing Zone 918, all of which have been threatened in the past with eviction and demolition in order to make way for a huge Israeli military training area, free of Palestinian villages. Eight remain under threat, with a temporary injunction by the Israeli Supreme Court having recently been extended in January 2013. The headmaster of the school in Al Fakheet said “The Israeli authorities know it is illegal to evict people for military training, so they will try to make people’s lives very bad so they just leave. Then if we leave, they will use the land for settlements.”

The Israeli forces have stated that they wish to create a general military training area in Firing Zone 918. This would be a breach of the 4th Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying force should not destroy property unless it is “rendered absolutely necessary by military operations” – general military training is not deemed “absolutely necessary” in international law.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Palestinian Cameraman Shot In The Face In Bethlehem

Bethlehem, Monday April 8, 2013, Palestinian medical sources reported that a Palestinian cameraman was shot in the face, on Monday evening, by a rubber-coated metal bullet, in the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

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The Palestine News Network (PNN) has reported that Mohammad Waleed Al-Azza was shot during clashes that took place between Israeli soldiers invading the camp and local youths who hurled stones at them.

PNN added that Al-Azza, who works at the Refugee Media Center in addition to freelancing for PNN and other agencies, was deliberately shot in the face by the soldiers who tried to stop him from documenting the invasion.

The soldiers tried to push him away, and when he refused to leave, one of the soldiers pointed his gun at him and shot him from a relatively close range.

Al-Azza’s medical condition was described as moderate; he was moved to the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, in Bethlehem, where he will undergo surgery.

The camp has been witnessing an extended wave of escalation since several months now, due to repeated Israeli invasions and attacks against the residents, PNN said.

Several reporters have been injured in recent clashes between the soldiers and the Palestinians in different parts of the occupied West Bank, and occupied East Jerusalem.

(Source / 09.04.2013)

Als Marokkaan ben je een scheldwoord geworden

 

  • Alsof ik me gelukkig mag prijzen dat ik niet op een Marokkaan lijk

Wanneer het Marokkanen regent in Nederland, dan druppelt het ook in België. Deze keer was het de beurt aan Nederland om het over Marokkanen te hebben. Dikwijls denken Belgische en Nederlandse Marokkanen over elkaar: ‘Ha, wij hebben vorige keer onze portie gehad. Nu is het aan jullie, maar straks komen wij weer aan de beurt.’

Het begon met een discussie dat Marokkaanse jongeren oververtegenwoordigd zijn in de criminaliteitscijfers. De PVV noemde het een Marokkanenprobleem en ze wilden in de kamer een Marokkanendebat houden. Hier zie ik de N-VA nog niet snel roepen dat we een Marokkanenprobleem hebben en dat we dringend een Marokkanendebat moeten houden. Maar bij ons ligt het iets anders, wij hebben nog de Walen.

In een goede democratie komt het verstand met de jaren, maar ik heb de indruk dat het niveau in het Nederlandse parlement steeds dieper begint te zakken. Het parlement wordt in Nederland al jarenlang gedomineerd door de partij van Geert Wilders. Een partij die even racistisch is als Heinrich Himmler op een druilerige lentedag en die als een genitale wrat rond de aars van de Nederlandse samenleving kleeft.

Ik vraag me af waarom de andere politici zo zwak zijn en zich zo gemakkelijk rond de vinger winden om het wat over Marokkanen te hebben. Als Marokkaan moet je het maar aanvaarden: je bent een scheldwoord geworden. Je hoort steeds dezelfde clichés, steeds dezelfde vooroordelen, steeds dezelfde beschuldigingen. Je hoort de steeds weerkerende echo van kutmarokkaantjes in het hoofd.

En hoe lang duurt die echo nu al? Tien, twintig, dertig jaar?

Het is al zo lang dat het als een chronische ziekte in onze hoofden is genesteld. Marokkaan: Barbaar. Marokkaan en moslim: fascistische barbaar.

Ik ben van Marokkaanse afkomst en van kleins af aan hoor ik weleens dat ik niet op een Marokkaan lijk. Geen probleem, ik weet dat ik onvergelijkbaar ben. Maar wat mij nu stoort is dat ze het met een goedkeurende glimlach doen. Alsof ze mij een compliment geven en ik mij gelukkig mag prijzen dat ik niet op een Marokkaan lijk. Ik weet dat ik de vergelijking niet mag maken, maar om nog eens een knoop in je zakdoek te leggen, ga ik het toch maar doen.In de jaren dertig was er ook een Jodenprobleem, liepen er ook kutjoden rond en hielden ze ook Jodendebatten.

De meesten zullen het niet weten, maar er is heel wat diversiteit tussen Marokkaanse Nederlanders en Marokkaanse Belgen. Persoonlijk vind ik dat Marokkanen uit Nederland wel erg hard op Nederlanders lijken. Hetzelfde gebit, dezelfde monkellach, ze zijn een stuk groter dan normaal, bovendien zijn ze ondernemend en koesteren ze het debat. Eigenlijk zijn het gewoon Nederlanders.

Wij, Marokkanen uit België… welja, laten we zeggen dat eigen lof stinkt. Marokkanen zijn nooit een samenhangende groep geweest, we helpen elkaar liever naar de afgrond dan voor elkaar op te komen. Zo gaat dat. Bij het Marokkanendebat viel vooral de assertiviteit en eensgezindheid van de Marokkaanse gemeenschap in Nederland op. Want je kunt niet eindeloos vragen om een dialoog aan te gaan met een partij wier enige bestaansreden het demoniseren van bevolkingsgroepen is.

Je moet niet glimlachen en in de hoek blijven zitten waar de klappen vallen. Geef liever zelf een verbale stoot.

(Source / 09.04.2013)