The ‘forgotten faithful’ of Gaza

 

Jeremy Moodey, CEO of Embrace the Middle East

Christian charities are undertaking a new project to help understand the lives of believers in Gaza, where the number of Christians has dropped dramatically in recent decades.

Development charity Embrace the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem and the Gaza YMCA are working together to survey local Christians for a new report that will give fresh insight into a community that has not been officially examined for over half a century.

An unofficial census commissioned by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1993 was the last study undertaken on Christians in the region, and the most recent official census took place a staggering 47 years go in 1967.

Increasing persecution in the Middle Eastern region in addition to unstable political structures has resulted in many believers leaving the country. Since1967, the number of Christians in Gaza is thought to have dropped from 2,305 – 0.6 per cent of the total population – to an estimated 1,500, representing less than 0.1 per cent.

There has never been, however, a comprehensive socio-economic study of the Christian community in Gaza, and charities are therefore keen to uncover more about this largely forgotten body of believers, most of whom identify with the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

 

The Christian population of Gaza is now thought to number just 1,500.

“The Palestinian Christian community in Gaza is tiny but determined,” says Jeremy Moodey, chief executive of Embrace the Middle East.

“Media reports can sometimes be distorted and unhelpful, but for the first time in more than 50 years we are finally researching the size and make-up of the community, how it has changed since the Oslo accords of 1993 and the special challenges facing Christians in Gaza.”

Volunteers have already begun visiting Christian homes in the region to collect data which will be compiled to assess social, medical, educational and economic needs, which Embrace and its partners will then use to formulate an effective and appropriate response.

Moodey says the information gathered will be “vital” in supporting those who have chosen to stay in Gaza, despite the difficulties.

“Gaza’s Christian community is under great pressure, both from the continued blockade of the territory by Egypt and Israel, which threatens a humanitarian catastrophe, and by the Islamist government in Gaza,” he says.

“We want to support this community in their presence and their witness, and this survey will be a vital building block in our own endeavours and those of our partners.”

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Are honor killings allowed in Islam?

 

Old Quran Open Pages 2

Question:

Does Islam let men kill their wives or daughters to protect their family honor?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Vigilante killing for any reason is murder and forbidden in Islam, no matter what reason or excuse the murderer might have.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Do not kill a soul that Allah has forbidden except by right of justice. This He has instructed you that you may reason.

Surah Al-An’am 6:151

So-called “honor killings” are cases of men who have killed their wives or daughters because they committed adultery or were involved in another scandalous behavior. They murder their family members due to cultural pressure and shame put upon their family name from society. These criminal actions are absolutely forbidden because it is not permissible in Islam for anyone to take the law into their own hands. The Prophet explicitly prohibited Muslims from punishing adultery themselves, for legal punishment requires due process from lawful authorities and adultery specifically necessitates four eye-witnesses before punishment can be applied.

Abu Huraira reported: Sa’d ibn Ubadah said, “O Messenger of Allah, if I find another man with my wife, should I leave him alone until I bring four witnesses?” The Messenger of Allah said yes. Sa’d said, “Never! By the one who sent you with the truth, if that happened to me I would quickly grab the sword!” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

اسْمَعُوا إِلَى مَا يَقُولُ سَيِّدُكُمْ إِنَّهُ لَغَيُورٌ وَأَنَا أَغْيَرُ مِنْهُ وَاللَّهُ أَغْيَرُ مِنِّي

Listen to what your leader is saying. Verily, he has a sense of honor and I have a greater sense of honor than him and Allah has a greater sense of honor than me.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1498, Grade: Sahih

In this tradition, the Prophet forbade a man from harming his wife even if he caught her being intimate with another man, despite his sense of honor being offended. Allah has a greater sense of honor than anyone, yet He has forbidden the believers from applying legal punishments without authority and due process.

In fact, the issue of honor killings has nothing to do with what is prescribed and taught by Islam, but rather it involves sensitive cultural dynamics that are not unique to Muslims. Jews, Christians, and Hindus have likewise murdered their family members out of a sense of honor.

Furthermore, domestic and family violence is a universal phenomenon in all cultures and religions. Men in Western cultures murder their wives or girlfriends after they have been caught being intimate with another man. Is this not similar to an honor killing? Rather, the difference is that the media often reports Western domestic violence as individual, random, and aberrant, but domestic violence committed by Muslims is portrayed as regular, religiously-sanctioned, and evidence of a misogynistic culture. Therefore, the reality of the situation is obscured in order to promote a self-serving narrative of the “civilized” West saving Muslim women from a “backwards” East. Nevertheless, it is the duty of Muslim scholars, leaders, and laypeople to do what they can to end the phenomena of honor killings.

Some anti-Muslim writers have claimed Islam justifies killing children and subsequently honor killings in the following report:

Ibn Abbas reported:

وَإِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَمْ يَكُنْ يَقْتُلُ الصِّبْيَانَ فَلاَ تَقْتُلِ الصِّبْيَانَ إِلاَّ أَنْ تَكُونَ تَعْلَمُ مَا عَلِمَ الْخَضِرُ مِنَ الصَّبِيِّ الَّذِي قَتَلَ ‏

The Messenger of Allah did not kill children, so you should not kill them unless you know what Al-Khidr knew about the child he killed.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1812, Grade: Sahih

They claim it is permissible to kill children because of the story in the Quran in which Al-Khidr killed a child. However, a key point of the story is that Al-Khidr did so only because Allah revealed to him that the boy would become a rebel. Since it is understood that Al-Khidr had knowledge of the unseen which did not belong even to Moses, Ibn Abbas is actually using the story as a proof against killing children.

An-Nawawi comments on this tradition, saying:

مَعْنَاهُ أَنَّ الصِّبْيَانَ لَا يَحِلُّ قَتْلُهُمْ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكَ أَنْ تَتَعَلَّقَ بِقِصَّةِ الْخَضِرِ وَقَتْلِهِ صَبِيًّا فَإِنَّ الْخَضِرَ مَا قَتَلَهُ إِلَّا بِأَمْرِ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى لَهُ عَلَى التَّعْيِينِ كَمَا قَالَ فِي آخِرِ الْقِصَّةِ وَمَا فَعَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَمْرِي فَإِنْ كُنْتَ أَنْتَ تَعْلَمُ مِنْ صَبِيٍّ ذَلِكَ فَاقْتُلْهُ وَمَعْلُومٌ أَنَّهُ لَا عِلْمَ لَهُ بِذَلِكَ فَلَا يَجُوزُ لَهُ الْقَتْلُ

The meaning is that it is not lawful to kill children and it is not lawful to use the story of Al-Khidr killing the boy. Indeed, Al-Khidr only killed the boy because Allah commanded him as this was specific to him, just as he said in the end of the story: I did not do it of my own accord (18:82). So if you know about the boy as he did then you may kill him, but it is well-known that no one can know that, so it is not permissible to kill children.

Source: Sharh Sahih Muslim

In conclusion, honor killings have no justification in Islam. They are criminal acts that are committed due to the pressures of culture and other irreligious reasons. Muslims should make every effort to stop this phenomena from continuing.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Syrian Coalition: International Community’s Inaction Emboldens Assad to commit more Crimes

Louay Safi, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition, holds the international community and the Arab states responsible for the increased suffering of the Syrian people caused by the Assad’s genocidal campaign against the unarmed civilians. Safi calls on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to take serious and practical steps to stop the regime’s indiscriminate killing against the Syrian people. “Assad’s systematic bombardment of civilian populations as a collective punishment amounts to war crimes. These crimes should be investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice. The UN Security Council has a duty to maintain international peace and security by neutralizing Assad’s air force to protect innocent civilians. This is definitely one of the many things the UNSC could do to fulfill its duty.” Safi also said that international attitudes towards the Syrian revolution do not help fulfil the ambitions of the Syrian people. “It is unacceptable that the Security Council remains idle for three years and cannot stop the crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime, especially its use of warplanes, barrel bombs and rocket launchers to bomb civilians amid deadly silence by the international community and Arab states. The popular uprising in Syria has put all human rights principles and international laws at stake.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 04.04.2014)

Israel to impose economic sanctions on PA

Martin IndykDuring an emergency session between US envoy Martin Indyk and the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams during which Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni demanded the Palestinian Authority back down from its request to go to the United Nations organisations otherwise Israel will not release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners

Israel has begun a series of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority in response to the Palestinian request to join 15 international UN treaties, Haaretz reported on Wednesday.

The present economic sanctions come in the wake of latest crisis in the political process which reached its climax on Wednesday. During an emergency session between US envoy Martin Indyk and the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams during which Israel’s chief negotiator Tzipi Livni demanded the Palestinian Authority back down from its request to go to the United Nations organisations otherwise Israel will not release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners.

The newspaper quoted an Israeli official as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon asked the Coordinator of Activities in the West Bank Territories Yoav Mordechai to submit proposals of punitive measures against the Palestinians.

According to the paper the suggestions included freezing the Wataniya mobile company, which operates in the West Bank, from entering hardware to the Gaza Strip to deploy its mobile communications network there, and to impose restrictions on the activity of the Palestinian Authority in the Area C in the West Bank which falls under Israeli security and civil control.

The paper said a study of other economic sanctions is being conducted. Options being considered include freezing the tax and customs revenues which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and collecting the Palestinian debt amounting to hundreds of millions of shekels to the Israeli Electricity Company. No decision has been made as to which measure will be implemented.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Erekat calls for an interim government with Hamas and Islamic Jihad

 

Saeb ErekatErekat also recommends overcoming the Israeli siege of Gaza by implementing the Cairo and Doha reconciliation agreements, as well as to work with European countries to impose a boycott on the settlements

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has called on the Palestinian National Council to hold an urgent meeting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad participating in order to elect a new PLO executive committee to serve as an interim government in line with the UN decision to recognise Palestine as a full member state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Erekat’s call came in a political study he was presenting to the PLO entitled, “How do we deal with the US proposals?”

Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television said that in the 65-page study Erekat describes how Israel is attempting to establish an authority in the Palestinian territories without any authority in order to occupy Palestinian land without having to pay the price, and to establish a future Palestinian state without Gaza. He recommends thwarting these plans by sending requests to join the UN organisations as soon as possible.

Erekat also recommends overcoming the Israeli siege of Gaza by implementing the Cairo and Doha reconciliation agreements, as well as to work with European countries to impose a boycott on the settlements.

According to the study, the Arab League should adopt, through the Committee of the Arab Initiative, the aforementioned recommendations as soon as possible and call on the whole world to help the Palestinians face the Israeli campaign against them.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Palestinians must abandon the ‘peace process’

Palestinians should not accept the current peace deal proposed by the US.

West Bank settlements are to expand with 2,553 new units, writes Karmi

No term in the Israeli-Palestinians political lexicon has been so abused or so denuded of meaning as the “peace process”. It was set up after the Oslo Accords in 1993, to settle the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians by peaceful negotiations, but has led nowhere.

Yet it is still ongoing, its latest manifestation launched in August 2013, when US Secretary of State John Kerry put forward an ambitious plan to resolve all the major issues that have bedevilled the conflict within the space of nine months. The result he envisaged was a “final-status agreement” over borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, which when resolved, would supposedly end the conflict for good.

Now close to the deadline proposed by Kerry, it is clear that no settlement is in the offing. Desperate to salvage the process, Kerry has come up with the idea of a “Framework Agreement” that sets out basic principles for the two sides to negotiate on in future. This, he hopes, will keep the “peace process” going for longer.

Thwarting peace

Yet Israel’s policy has been the exact opposite. In December 2013, Israeli ministers voted eight to threeto annex the Jordan valley, and from the start of this year, West Bank settlements were set to be expanded by 2,553 new housing units. A law preventing the Israeli prime minister from discussing the status of Jerusalem or the refugee issue at the peace talks without prior majority approval from the Israeli parliament, was proposed in January.

Head to Head – Have Palestinian leaders failed their people?

The Israeli prime minister subsequently assured his Likud party ministers and other Israeli political figures that he would reject any mention of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem in the Framework Agreement. Israel has also reiterated its refusal to permit any return of the Palestinians refugees within its borders, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been pushing for a transfer of Arabs living in the Triangle area of the Galilee to Palestinian Authority rule. To all these conditions has been added the requirement to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

In an attempt to deter the US secretary of state further, senior Israeli officials have been accusing him of being an anti-Semite. The final straw came last week when Israel refused to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, the last of a total of 104 long time prisoners whose release was agreed on as a condition for the Palestinians’ participation in the revived peace negotiations, last summer. Fearing that they would now pull out as a result of this Israeli breach of its commitments, the US has been making frantic efforts to prevent such an outcome, proposing an extension of the talks beyond the April 29 deadline. Israel has responded by offering to release the prisoners but only if the Palestinians agree to the talks’ extension.

Simple facts

These absurd political manoeuvrings only serve to obscure the fundamental reality. In trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry’s task is impossible to realise. This is not, as is often misleadingly asserted, because the issues are complex or because “painful compromises” are needed from both sides. The issues, in fact, are so embarrassingly simple it is an insult to the intelligence to have to set them down.

In plain English, one side has stolen land and resources belonging to the other and refuses to give them up. The thief is supported by powerful external agencies, while the losing side has no equivalent support. In this situation, it would be normal to call on an independent force or arbiter to compel the thief to return the stolen goods, and “compromise” would not be applicable.

But in the peace process as configured by those on the side of the thief, there is no independent agency, only an “arbiter” whose starting point is one of total commitment to the thief’s welfare. How then, to solve the conflict that has arisen because of the robbery, but without penalising the robber or forcing him to return the booty? That, in essence, is where the problem lies for Kerry and his predecessors.

The “peace process” has all along been predicated on these lines, that Israel’s welfare is paramount. What this has meant in practise is that pressure can only be applied to the Palestinians, and the ineffectual Arab states. Since Israel long ago won the battle to keep 80 percent of Palestine, the area behind the 1967 border and referred to as “Israel proper”, it is the 20 percent that remains which Israel is fighting to keep.

Kerry’s negotiations are concerned with how to divide that 20 percent in Israel’s favour while giving the Palestinians something too. Since whatever he proposes requires Israel’s agreement, the only room for manoeuvring he has, is to minimise the offer to the Palestinians even further to ensure Israel’s acquiescence. On the other hand, if the offer is too inadequate, the Palestinians will not accept it. This dilemma has forced Kerry to draw up an interim agreement and to propose a time extension for further negotiations.

Dividing up the 20 percent

His Framework Agreement has not been published yet, as all peace talks have been conducted in total secrecy, but from various leaks and reports it would seem that it deals with all the major questions. Israel would retain its major West Bank settlements, annexing up to 10 percent of the land.

Al-Nakba – Episode 1

The Palestinians would receive 5.5 percent of as yet unspecified Israeli land in return. Israel would have to give up the Jordan Valley, to be subsequently policed by either NATO or combined Jordanian-US troops, or some combination of troops from friendly Muslim states, with Israeli oversight of the Jordan border and the right of veto over entrants. Gaza would be connected to the West Bank by bridges or tunnels. Israel would evacuate its forces from the new demilitarised Palestinian state over a period of five years, and NATO could take their place.

The Palestinian capital would be outside Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, in the villages adjoining East Jerusalem like al-Ram, Abu Dis, or al-Aizariyya, and a multi-national committee would be in charge of the holy places in the old city. The right of refugee return would be dealt with through an international compensation fund for refugees and offers of immigration to Australia, with a token number of returnees to Israel. If all that is agreed, it would constitute the end of the conflict. Kerry is reported to be pressing both sides hard to accept these ideas, many of which have been aired before and already largely accepted by the Palestinian leadership. It is Israel that is likely not to agree, and herein lies Kerry’s problem.

Intimidation and redemption

Kerry’s plan contains many of the features of previous peace proposals. None of them answers to international law, Palestinian rights or elemental justice. As a Haaretz article candidly put it on January 6, to succeed, Kerry’s plan demands no less than a total and abject Palestinian surrender to Israeli and US diktat. And for that reason, it should be rejected outright without extensions or delays. The Palestinians should immediately join all the UN bodies open to “Palestine” as a non-member state and especially the International Criminal Court where they must initiate proceedings against Israel’s breaches of international law. They must call for an international conference to discuss a settlement of the conflict and the resolution of all their fundamental rights.

That none of this has happened so far is testament to the intimidation practised by Israel and its allies on the Palestinian leadership. They have been persuaded that pragmatism and real politik is the best option. Israel is too powerful to fight and so they should settle for what is possible. This pernicious idea has been the guiding principle of the Palestinian negotiators, with the inevitable consequence that they have been forced to concede more of their rights with each round of talks.

To this sorry state of affairs has now been added an explicit US threat, that if the Palestinians reject the Kerry peace plan, they will face a political and economic blockade. All US and European aid will stop and they will be isolated. No Arab state has so far stepped in to make up for these threatened Palestinian losses, and most are, anyway, involved with conflicts inside their own borders.

At this moment in history the world appears weary of the Palestine problem and wants to see it end. But it is imperative that the Palestinians do not respond to this situation by selling their case cheap. It is true they are weak, but they have one strength: to say “No”. No peace plan can go ahead without their assent, and Kerry and his proposals will come to nothing if they refuse them. They have alternatives and it would be irresponsible not to use them. Applying to accede to 15 multilateral treaties and conventions as the Palestinian president has just done on behalf of “Palestine” is a good start, but it is not enough. The Palestinian leadership, for too long timid and self-serving, finally has a chance to redeem itself.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Settlers destroy over 300 grape vines near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Friday destroyed over 300 newly planted grape vines in al-Khader village south of Bethlehem, locals said.

Landowner Mohammad Ibrahim Sbeih told Ma’an that he saw settlers from the illegal Sde Boaz settlement on his land in the al-Shub area.

Coordinator for the local resistance committee Ahmad Salah told Ma’an that the settlers vandalized 18 dunams (four acres) of land.

Israeli forces arrived in the area and detained Sbeih and his brothers for several hours, he said.

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee has said it will provide compensation for the attack and plant new trees, Salah added.

In 2013, there were 399 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Secret tunnels cause settlers to live in ‘fear’

Gaza TunnelThe Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, stressed that the discovery of the tunnel was caused when rainfall caused its collapse and was not an intelligence breakthrough for the occupation

A secret document which explains how to deal with the residents of settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip and how to calm fears in the wake of increased discovery of tunnels has been unveiled.

The Arabic news agency Wala yesterday reported that the document indicates that “the increase in discovering tunnels which enter residential areas of nearby settlements is creating an atmosphere of psychological distress, where the threat of detecting a tunnel is turned into a real fear, which will have implications on the long term.”

The source revealed the Israeli Army has recently strengthened the presence of soldiers in settlements near the Gaza Strip.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli army announced the discovery of an underground tunnel used by the resistance near the Ein Hashlosha kibbutz, east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas, stressed that the discovery of the tunnel was caused when rainfall caused its collapse and was not an intelligence breakthrough for the occupation.

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Lebanon ex-warlord in presidential race

  • 1396617765604273600.jpg

    Samir Geagea, the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, right, and his wife Strida Geagea, left, attend a meeting with senior party officials to announce his candidacy for the Lebanese presidency, in Maarab east Beirut, Lebanon, on Friday.

BEIRUT: Former Lebanon warlord Samir Geagea, a staunch opponent of Syria and the Shiite movement Hezbollah, will stand for the presidency in May, his Christian Lebanese Forces party said on Friday.

Geagea, 61, was the only leader from the 1975-1990 civil war ever jailed, but was released under an amnesty in 2005 after Syria withdrew from Lebanon, ending 30 years of domination over its tiny neighbor.

Syria ended its military and political dominance under popular Lebanese and international pressure, but it continues to exert significant influence through allies, mainly Hezbollah.

Geagea is one of Hezbollah’s key opponents in Lebanon, and has repeatedly demanded that the movement, which never disarmed after the 15-year civil war, hand in its weapons.

He has also expressed support for the revolt against President Bashar Assad and denounced Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict.

Last month, Geagea’s Lebanese Forces refused to join a new government finally formed after 10 months of political wrangling, citing Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and its controversial arsenal.

Lebanese Forces deputy Georges Edwan announced Geagea’s candidacy, saying the party’s decision to back him is based on an “urgent need for radical change now.”

(Source / 04.04.2014)

Syria vacuum bombs kill 20 in Aleppo

Syria vacuum bombs kill 20 in Aleppo

Women and children among civilians killed in air attack in countryside, say civil defense groups.

Twenty civilians have been killed and dozens wounded, including women and children, after the Syrian regime used vacuum bombs to attack targets in Aleppo’s countryside, according to civil defense groups.
Many houses were destroyed or damaged in Aleppo when the bombs – devices which explode above ground and spray out a cloud of fuel which then ignites to create a second blast wave – detonated on Friday, civil defense groups told the Anadolu Agency.

Rescue workers and residents were continuing to recover dead bodies and attempt to rescue those still alive under debris.

With such air attacks, activists said civilians should try to leave Aleppo.

Syria has been in turmoil since 2011 when a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad escalated into civil war following a violent regime crackdown.

More than 100,000 people have been killed during the ongoing three-year conflict, which has also internally displaced more than 6.5 million people, according to the UN

(Source / 04.04.2014)