Nablus’ only oud maker keeps city in tune

A Palestinian boy plays an oud near the village of al Wallaje, West Bank, Nov. 11, 2010

NABLUS, West Bank — In a small workshop in the old city of Nablus in the West Bank, Ali Hassanein, 56, has been busy for 60 days manufacturing an oud. Hassanein is the only oud maker in Nablus, and citizens from there and neighboring cities head to his workshop to buy ouds and have their own instruments restored and repaired.

The oud, which is also Arabic for “wood,” is a pear-shaped stringed instrument. Considered one of the oldest man-made musical instruments, dating back more than 5,000 years, it is one of the most popular instruments in Middle Eastern music.

Hassanein told Al-Monitor that he started playing the oud when he was 12 years old. He was first taught by his father and went on to study with other musicians in Nablus.

When his small oud needed repair, he was unable to find anyone in the West Bank to help him fix it. He thought of traveling to get his oud fixed, but finally succeeded in doing it himself. That was when he decided to start manufacturing and fix them for others. He began manufacturing these musical instruments in 1993.

“I spent 12 years just repairing and restoring ouds before trying to manufacture one,” he said. With the encouragement of his family and friends, Hassanein traveled to several Arab countries to learn the secrets of this craft from the most famous manufacturers before returning home and opening his own workshop.

Hassanein called his workshop Ziryab after Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Nafi, a renowned ancient musician who made immense contributions to Arab music. Ibn Nafi was nicknamed Ziryab (Arabic for “blackbird”) for his melodious voice and dark complexion.

Hassanein explained that there are two main varieties of wood used to make musical instruments: cedar and spruce, which are the only types used to manufacture the oud’s soundboard, the part most important in the sound of the instrument. Hassanein imports the wood from Europe, Turkey and Egypt.

Hassanein said that the wood used in the manufacturing of musical instruments is chosen very carefully, adding, “Wood from the core of tree trunks is the most suitable for the oud. There is a special method of cutting wood to be used in the manufacturing of musical instruments, known only to experts.”

He told Al-Monitor that he imports small quantities of wood at a time, because he manufactures only five or six oud instruments per year at about 60-90 days of work for each. Hassanein knows how rare his craft is. “I am very professional at what I do. Manufacturing a musical instrument requires high precision and skills,” he said.

Pointing to the high cost of manufacturing ouds, which varies depending on the type and quality of the wood, he noted that they are sold in Palestine at a price ranging between 400-1,200 shekels ($106-$320).

In addition to his work in manufacturing and restoring ouds, Hassanein also teaches in a separate room near his workshop. He said, “A large number of people are learning oud. In the past three decades, the relationship with this instrument has grown stronger. It is not so easy for people to part with such a magnificent musical instrument as the oud.”

According to Hassanein, “This is clear from the increasing number of oud students at conservatories in Nablus and the West Bank cities.”

The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music was the first official music school in Palestine, founded in 1993. Later on, many other music schools opened across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, most notably Al Kamandjati in Jenin.

Hassanein said that Nablus has historically had a special relationship with the oud. A majority of residents in the city once played it, especially women, who were seen as particularly gentle with the strings of the delicate instrument. “Many families in Nablus still keep and use their ancestors’ oud to this day,” he said.

Hassanein added that he benefited from the experience of European makers of musical instruments such as the famous guitar maker Christian Bertram. Though he focused on learning how to make the oud, he also learned to restore guitars and violins. He obtained various certificates in music from institutes in the West Bank.

Amal Barghouti, a 22-year-old from Nablus, is learning to play the oud and frequently visits Hassanein’s workshop. She told Al-Monitor she admires his oud-making skills, saying he offers the city a great service. She added, “The oud still preserves its authenticity in our city thanks to Hassanein, who keeps breathing life into it. He is the only one able to manufacture and restore this kind of musical instrument in the West Bank.”

Barghouti stressed the need to support Hassanein’s workshop in Nablus and encourage him to expand his work to other Palestinian cities. “He has given the oud back its ancient prestigious status,” she said.

Despite his successes, Hassanein believes he has a long way to go to fully master his art. He said he has an intimate relationship with the oud, which he considers sacred.

Cultural and musical life in Palestine is going through a kind of renaissance, with the emergence of a number of cultural centers, conservatories and numerous art festivals, most notably the Palestine International Festival, which hosts top Arab and international singers and musicians. Figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics issued in 2015 on the occasion of Palestinian Culture Day showed that there were 596 cultural centers in the Palestinian territories, 515 of them in the West Bank and 81 in the Gaza Strip. Elective music courses and even degrees are available at many Palestinian universities, including Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, Al-Quds University and Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

IOF arrests two Palestinians after raiding Aida refugee camp


The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested two Palestinian youths on Thursday afternoon after raiding Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem amid firing of live and rubber bullets and tear gas canisters.

According a local source, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers who targeted the houses of Mohammad Ouda and Ahmad Amer and blew up their water tanks.

The IOF arrested two Palestinian youths, Rani Abu Baker and Saib Amarna, during the clashes, the local source confirmed.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

6 injured, 1 Palestinian teen arrested in reported shooting, stabbing attack in Petah Tikva


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A 19-year-old Palestinian from the Nablus area village of Beita in the northern occupied West Bank was arrested late Thursday afternoon at a market in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva, in connection with a reported shooting and stabbing attack that has left six people injured, according to Israeli police.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the teen was caught and disarmed by locals before being arrested by police, at which time he was unharmed with the firearm still in his hand.

Initial reports from al-Samri around 5 p.m said that three people were injured with minor gunshot wounds, including a man in his fifties, a woman in her fifties, and another woman in her thirties.

In addition, al-Samri said a man in his forties was taken to the hospital after he was stabbed.
The identities of the four injured people remained unknown.
“Police are still investigating whether the shooting and the stabbing are related,” al-Samri said, adding that “a suspect, seemingly Palestinian, was arrested as police rushed to the scene for investigations.”
According to Israeli police the incidents are being treated as “terrorist attacks.”
(Source / 09.02.2017)

Civil Defense in Alwaer District of Homs Appeal to Int’l Community to Stop Assad Regime’s Attacks on its Centers

The civil defense in the district of Alwaer in Homs on Wednesday appealed to the international community and human rights organizations to “put pressure on the Assad regime to stop the deliberate and systematic targeting of its centers in the besieged district.”

A civil defense center in Alwaer was put out of service after being hit with explosive cylinders on Wednesday. The attack left a rescue worker injured and destroyed an ambulance.

In December, the same center was hit with rocket shelling that put it out of service. The shelling also targeted the Teachers Institute in the district.

Doctor Abu Majd Alkhalidi said that 11 civilians, including three children and three women, were killed and 45 others wounded in regime airstrikes on Alwaer on Wednesday. Five of the injured had to undergo amputations as medical centers in the district lack the necessary equipment to treat serious injuries, Alkhalidid added. Hospitals issued an emergency call for blood donations in view of the high casualties.

Residents trapped in Alwaer district suffer severe shortages of medicines and medical equipment as well as high prices of infant formula due to the blockade regime forces impose on the district. Regime checkpoints besieging the district have repeatedly prevented the ill and injured from leaving the district for treatment.

On December 7, regime forces threatened they would escalate bombardment on the district should the residents refuse to leave or lay down their weapons.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Smart News Network / 09.02.2017)

Barghouthi: Deportation is rejected


Prisoners freed in Gilad Shalit swap deal reject being exiled or taken away from their families, according to Nael Barghouthi, the oldest serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.

“Exile is off the table. These (freed) prisoners will not accept anything but freedom and return to their families,” Barghouthi told Palestinian Prisoners Club lawyer.

Barghouthi’s comment followed reports of a new prisoners exchange deal between the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and Israel. The armed wing, however, insisted that the re-arrested prisoners should be released before negotiating the new swap deal.

Barghouthi was released in the Shalit deal in 2011 but the Israeli occupation forces re-arrested him in 2014 and sentenced him to 30 months. He was supposed to be released in December 17 but the Israeli authorities kept him in custody.
Barghouthi, 59, from Kobar village in Ramallah province, spent 36 years in Israeli jails and is considered the longest serving prisoner, as he served 34 years before being released then he was held for two years and still is in custody.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

How Russia’s Muslims view Trump’s anti-Islam stance

President Donald Trump holds up one of the executive actions that he signed in the Oval Office on Jan. 28, 2017, in Washington, DC

US President Donald Trump has sparked fury across the world, especially among Muslims, with his recent attempt to prevent nationals of seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The countries affected are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Trump’s executive order, signed Jan. 27, has been on hold under a temporary restraining order issued Feb. 3, but three federal judges are set to hear the government’s appeal of the hold at 6 p.m. ET Feb. 7.

Most Middle Eastern, Muslim-majority countries, as well as European leaders, condemn the action and consider it an anti-Islam ban. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “regret and astonishment” over the ban. The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Iran called the order “insulting” and a “gift to extremists.”

Even the UK, a close US ally, described the ban as “divisive and wrong,” as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson tweeted. The ban recalls Trump’s anti-Islam comments made during his election campaign, and fueled speculation that he will try to take even more strict measures against Muslims and Muslim-majority countries.

There are more than 20 million Muslims living in Russia, constituting about 15% of the country’s total population. Islam is the second-largest religion there, after Orthodox Christianity. Most Russian Muslims live in the seven republics of the Russian Federation: Bashkortostan and Tatarstan in the Volga-Urals region; and Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia in the Northern Caucasus. There are also huge Muslim diasporas in big cities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Despite Russia’s significant Muslim population, it hasn’t condemned the ban and prefers not to comment on it.

“It is not our business,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

There also haven’t been any official comments on the ban made by Muslim official representatives in Russia or the authorities of predominantly Muslim-populated regions of Russia.

Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who likes to express his views on the range of political and world issues via social media, also remained surprisingly silent — though he had been quick to congratulate Trump on his victory in the November 2016 presidential election. He also shared his views on the first telephone conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying on Instagram, “The conversation opens a new page in Russian-American relations. The results of the talks are not only important for the both countries but for the whole international society as well.”

Al-Monitor contacted the administrations of some of Russia’s Muslim-populated regions and representatives of Islamic organizations for comment on the situation. The most common response was, “We have no authority to comment on that issue.”

However, a source in one of the most influential Islamic organizations in Russia agreed to express his views on condition of strict anonymity.

“Without any doubt, any anti-Muslim ban concerns us and we are closely following the situation. But no one will make official statements on that, especially if they contain condemnation,” he told Al-Monitor.

Iskander Gilyazov, a historian and Tatar social activist, told Al-Monitor, “Why hasn’t Russia condemned the ban? I think it’s part of a political game.”

Gilyazov, a professor at Kazan University, added, ”It’s a reflection of the euphoria that prevails here [in the federal government] after Trump’s victory.” According to Gilyazov, Russian Muslim authorities have taken a cautious position and prefer to wait for Trump’s next moves before reaching conclusions.

Another expert told Al-Monitor, “Russian Muslims, as well as the majority of Russians, are tired of sanctions and isolation from the world. They believe that with a new administration in the White House their lives will get better. That’s why Russian Muslims don’t rush to comment on Trump’s policy,” said Rais Suleymanov, a specialist on Islam and an expert at the Institute of National Strategy.

He said Russian Muslims also don’t feel too much sympathy for Muslim immigrants.

“It’s necessary to keep in mind that Russian Muslims are not immigrants in Russia and, more than that, they feel all the negative consequences of immigration, especially from Central Asia,” Suleymanov explained.

Vusal Kerimov, a Moscow-based political expert and a representative of Moscow’s Talysh diaspora, suggested it isn’t surprising that there has been no official reaction from Muslim representatives. “Why should there be? Any criticism would be controversial to the Kremlin’s official line. That is why Muslim social activists preferred not to touch the American election at all. Peskov said, ‘It’s not our business.’ I fully understand this position,” Kerimov told Al-Monitor.

Russian Muslims who spoke with Al-Monitor reacted negatively to Trump’s ban and anti-Islam rhetoric, but those who agreed to comment on the record about the situation don’t think it will affect them or lead to the rise of Islamophobia in Russia. Gilyazov, the professor, concurred.

“I personally condemn Trump’s anti-Muslim stance. But I understand that it is a result of prevailing Islamophobia in Western countries and an expression of the political incorrectness of the new American leader,” Gilyazov said.

Journalist Nasima Bokova also believes “the ban and anti-Islam stance won’t impact Muslims in Russia or worldwide.”

“Russia has its own story with its Muslim population, which has been a natural part of its culture and history for many centuries,” Bokova, former editor in chief of magazine Musulmanka (Muslim Woman), told Al-Monitor. She also believes there is no threat to American Muslims. “American society is tolerant enough. I used to live there and saw with my own eyes that most Americans are not Islamophobic at all.”

While there are still some concerns that Trump’s anti-Islam stance will lead to the rise of Islamophobia in the world, there is a strong possibility it might have quite a different effect.

“The recent ban and Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric could lead to the rise of anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiments among Muslims. Some extremist elements could probably benefit from the situation — some of them could take revenge on the USA and American citizens and this wave could spread around the world. As a result, people will say that Trump was right,” Kerimov, the Moscow political expert, told Al-Monitor.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

Expert: Conference for Palestinian diaspora ‘step in the right direction’

Image of Hani al-Masri [Issam Rimawi/Apaimages]

Image of Hani Al-Masri

Palestinian researcher Hani Al-Masri said yesterday that the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, due to be held in Turkey at the end of the month, is a “step in the right direction if it is not partisan”, Quds Press reported.

Al-Masri, who is the director of the Palestinian Centre for Strategic and Political Studies, warned: “If the popular conference turned partisan, it would lose its meaning.”

Palestinians in the diaspora are planning to hold their conference on 25-26 February in the Turkish city of Istanbul. “The Palestinians aboard should have a greater role in the Palestinian political process, not be marginalised,” Al-Masri said.

Read: Conference on Palestinian diaspora pledge to liberate their lands

Meanwhile, he said that the organisers of this conference should have invited PLO officials to attend the conference. He also said that “it must remain far from factions”, noting that this is “almost an impossible mission” because Palestinians are divided.

Speaking to Quds Press, conference spokesman Ziad Al-Aloul said that a number of historic Palestinian National Council and PLO leaders took part in preparing the conference and will be taking part in the conference.

He stressed that the conference, which came as a result of the political, security and social circumstances in which Palestinians are living, “represents the Palestinians without being aligned to any factions.”

(Source / 09.02.2017)

UK tribunal hears of Tunisian police ‘cowardice’ during Sousse terror attack

The aftermath of the Sousse terror attack that took place on 26th June 2015 in Tunisia [Facebook]

The aftermath of the Sousse terror attack that took place on 26th June 2015 in Tunisia

Tunisian security forces were accused of “cowardice” yesterday during the testimony of a Tunisian judge at a British inquest for failing to respond in proper time to a terrorist attack that occurred in a Tunisian coastal resort in 2015.

38 holiday makers, mostly from the United Kingdom, were gunned down at the Riu Imperial Marhaba hotel in the Tunisian city of Sousse on 26 June 2015 by 23-year-old Seifeddine Rezgui Yacoubi.

Yacoubi’s murderous rampage lasted 40 minutes unchallenged when he entered the hotel unimpeded to carry out the attack on the beach resort.

Armed police took 30 minutes to arrive at the scene when three minutes should have been the expected arrival time, according to a UK tribunal that began last month that is expected to last seven weeks. The tribunal was commissioned to investigate the Sousse attack.

A video was shown at the tribunal that shows the gunman being dropped off by a white van moments before the attack then casually walking off and stalking the hotel lobby looking for his victims.

“[The head of the police operations room]… asked the tourist security team leader to go to the scene with his men but there was no response,” Lazhar Akremi, a Tunisian judge, explained.

According to Akremi, the initial refusal of security forces to respond to the terrorist attack when the emergency was first raised was due to “simple cowardice, when they could have prevented the loss of life.”

The UK tribunal heard the testimonies of one marine who fainted at the scene out of “terror and panic” and another officer who reportedly removed his uniform to prevent himself being a target for the killer.

Daesh later claimed responsibility for the attack when they released a picture of Yacoubi posing with two Kalashnikov rifles on one of their sites.

The Spanish-owned five star hotel was a target for Yacoubi due to its popularity amongst foreign tourists and the minority of Tunisians who visited and stayed at the place, according to the tribunal.

The tourists “needlessly lost their lives” that day, Samantha Leek QC, legal counsel to the tribunal, stated. “[Security forces] had the ability to put an end to the attack before the police arrived but wasted a considerable amount of time in getting to the hotel.”

In a post-mortem report, Yacoubi was found to have high doses of cocaine in his system when he orchestrated the killings.

Three months before the Sousse attacks, 24 people were killed in an attack on the Bardo museum in the country’s capital, Tunis.

Tunisia has seen an increase in violence since 2011’s uprising that subsequently ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power.

Hundreds of Tunisians have gone to fight alongside Daesh in countries like Syria and neighbouring Libya with many Tunisians fearing the fighters’ return to Tunisia as Daesh strongholds are threatened with recapture will prove consequential for Tunisia in its attempts to curb its worrying growth in extremism.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on Israel

Israeli forces fire into the sky over the border in Gaza City on 7th February 2017 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Israeli forces fire into the sky over the border in Gaza City on 7th February 2017

Daesh is behind yesterday’s rocket attack on the southern Israeli town of Eilat, the group confirmed today.

“Some of these rockets were destroyed in flight by Iron Dome batteries,” an Israeli army spokeswoman said, in reference to Israel’s anti-missile system.

The system is believed to have shot down three missiles out of a total of seven fired from the Sinai Peninsula, according to the Israeli army.

No one was hurt in the attack and the “threat” level in Eilat has been returned to normal.

The Egyptian affiliate of Daesh, known as the Sinai Province, has launched several attacks on Israeli targets in the past.

(Source / 09.02.2017)

MADA: 383 violations against media freedoms during 2016


The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA” organized a press conference on Wednesday 08/02/2017, and released its annual report of violations against media freedoms in Palestine during 2016.

Mr. Mousa Rimawi- General Director of MADA center and Dr. Ammar Dweik- General Direct of The Independent Commission for Human Rights kicked off the conference with an opening speech.

Rimawi said that 2016 witnessed a significant decrease in total number of violations monitored against media freedoms in Palestine; compared to 2015. “MADA” monitored a total of 383 violations during 2016 in Palestine.

He added Israeli Occupation committed a total of 249 violation approximately 65%,whereas, Palestinian parties (in West Bank and Gaza Strip) committed a total of 134 violations roughly 35% of all violations recorded in 2016.
The main reason behind decline in Israeli violations backs to the fact that during 2016 Palestinian occupied territories did not witness eruptions of mass confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis.

The major cause of the decline in Palestinian violations was mainly due to the relative stable situation, as no internal events erupted, no repercussions for the internal political division were monitored, which was and still is considered as one of the most prominent causes of the violations targeting media freedoms in West Bank and Gaza.

The murder of a media student at Al-Quds University, Omar Sajdieh (22years) by Israeli Occupation Forces, besides , injuring and arresting dozens of Palestinian journalists, raiding, confiscating and sabotaging media outlets including (the shutdown of 12 Palestinian media outlets and printing houses). are all considered as the gravest and most prominent violations recorded in 2016.

He said that Israeli violations against media freedoms generally are featured within 18 different types, but the bulk revolved around 7 particular types that included: physical assaults, arrests, detention, prevent from coverage, shutting down media institution, confiscation/ sabotage of equipment, and detention of journalists. However, most serious violations constituted around 84% (208 violation), of Israeli violation in total (249 violations) during 2016.

He also added “. Last year witnessed attempts of Palestinian security apparatuses in West Bank and Gaza Strip practicing certain types of torture against Palestinian journalists, during their detention and interrogation, besides, the continuation of prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications of social media sites”.

He also added” 2016 witnessed a total of 86 Palestinian violations in West Bank against media freedoms, which fell under 14 types, the majority were three types (summon and interrogation/ arrest and detention/ prevention of coverage).

Whereas, a total of 48 violations against media freedoms were monitored in Gaza Strip, most of them fell under 9 types, and the majority of violations revolved around two major types (summon and interrogation/ detention and arrest). Noting that the political internal division that occurred since 2007 is still considered as the major reason for such violations.

Clarifying that such differences does not implicate that media freedoms status in Gaza strip are better than in West Bank, but it is due to numbers of journalists and media outlets are less in Gaza Strip.
Dr. Ammar Dweik, assured the importance of MADA efforts in defending media freedoms, particularly monitoring and documenting violations against freedom of expression and opinion, highlighting the importance of collective cooperation of all Palestinian Civil society organizations to expose all Israeli violations, and hold perpetrators accountability, of all systematic assaults against Palestinian journalists. All through a cumulative work that ensures the presence of a well-developed legal environment that guarantees media freedoms in Palestine.

Dr. Dweik also disclosed that the Independent commission for Human Rights, demanded the General attorney to stop all procedures against the writer Abbad Yahia, author of the novel entitled “crime in Ramallah”, and to transfer the case to the Ministry of Culture to solve.

He also assured that summoning the author and prosecuting him, and the withdrawal of the novel, constitutes an infringement of the Palestinian modern image, and its progress and the protection of creativity and creators. Particularly, that Palestine ratified several international treaties that assure the respect of freedom of opinion and expression in all aspects.

He also explained that the commission considered criminal proceedings against the Palestinian novelist as a precedent in Palestine since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Besides the fact that such procedures may open the way to legitimize incitement and personal attacks against the author on social networks, which could pose a threat to his personal safety.

MADA in its report welcome the decline of violations against media freedoms in Palestine during the last year. MADA also express its concern over the continued and regular violations and recommend the following:
MADA urges The international community to compel Israel to respect freedom of expression that is guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Immediate stop of Israeli pressure on social media companies including Facebook / twitter to posing restrictions of freedom of expression.
Immediate release of all Palestinian journalists and to stop administrative detention.
Stop the policy of shutting down media institutions and compensate all institutions (that were shutdown, or their equipment got confiscated or destructed.
Hold aggressors of journalists accountable.

On the Palestinian side:
Palestinian security forces (West Bank/ Gaza Strip) should comply with the Palestinian Basic law in terms of respecting freedom of expression.
Amend articles and clauses that are related to “publication crimes” in the Jordanian penal code 1960 which applies in West Bank, and certain amendments on publication and printing law (1995).
Enacting Palestinian modern laws that are in line with international standards, linked to media freedoms/ freedom of expression particularly access to information law as a fundamental step towards democracy.
Protection of human rights in general and rule of law to serve as a deterrent in case of violations in future, especially after Palestine ratified several international treaties including the International covenant on civil and political rights (without reservations).
Hold aggressors of journalists accountable.

(Source / 09.02.2017)