Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine
|Palestinians wait at a checkpoint before they attend Friday prayers at the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron, 26 September 2008. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)|
Ramadan al-Hour’s four children have not seen their father for the past year. Ranging in age from five years to four months old, Amal, Aya, Sulaf and Walid live with their mother in the town of Kufr Qassem inside Israel. Israeli authorities have prevented al-Hour’s wife and children from entering Gaza. Ramadan, 35 years old, is from the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip and used to work in Israel. A year ago he was arrested by Israeli security forces from his home in Kufr Qassem. Since then, he has been prevented access into Israel.
“What I can say, I am increasingly feeling depressed because I am unable to see them, to embrace my children or to pamper my four-month-old baby. My life has become miserable under this siege,” al-Hour said.
“Every time I speak to my daughter Amal over phone, she asks me the same questions: when does your work finish, dad? We want to see you badly. The work never finishes, she wonders every time. For how long I can lie to them that I am busy working?”
Al-Hour was married a few years ago, before the Israeli authorities banned family reunification of spouses from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. However, Ramadan could not obtain Israeli residency despite several application attempts.
“For the past two months, my wife has formally applied for entry into Gaza at the Erez checkpoint [in the northern Gaza Strip], yet she received no response from the concerned Israeli authorities,” he said.
“In spite of the fact that this procedure is totally consistent with Israeli law, every time my wife phones the authorities, she hears an answering machine saying ‘do not leave a message,’” al-Hour explained. He added, “Is that humane that we still can not see each other for more than a year? Is that humane that even in such an occasion of the Eid al-Fitr, we can not embrace each other? It’s really ruthless, so ruthless.”
Essam Hamdan, 40 years old, from the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip tells a similar story. He has lived alone for the past two months after his wife, who is originally from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, was forced by the Israeli authorities at the Erez checkpoint to sign a written pledge that she would not return to Gaza.
Hamadan’s wife was pregnant when she arrived at the checkpoint and needed urgent medical treatment in the West Bank. In spite of her condition and the fact that she had an Israeli permit to live in Gaza for one year, the Israeli authorities required her to sign the pledge or she would not be allowed to leave Gaza and she complied. Because of the severity of her condition, she was transferred to an Israeli hospital in Ashkelon, where she delivered four babies. Upon recovery, she and the children were transferred to the West Bank.
“Can you imagine, for 10 years I couldn’t have children, yet the moment God has met my wish, I can never see my dearest children,” Hamdan explained. “What a shortfall Israeli humanity is this, I really don’t know what to say. Shall I thank them for the treatment they provided to my wife or should I curse this occupation?”
Hamdan’s attempts to obtain a permit to visit his wife and children have been denied because he was previously arrested for working in Israel without a work permit. “I have already spent four months in prison, and now I am staying idle in Gaza for the past three years. I can hardly live because I haven’t worked,” he said.
Hamdan added that he would like to ask the Israelis “how can I pose a security threat to them while my life is now lost with no work and no job. All I want is to see my beloved children and enjoy some time with them. I have been looking forward to having children for ten years, since I divorced my first wife.”
Al-Hour and Hamdan are just a small sample of hundreds of similar cases in the Gaza Strip of Palestinians who are victims of Israel’s “security considerations.” As a result, these families will be unable to spend the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which begins at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, together.
By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine
29 September, 2008
Earlier this month, a semi-official Iranian news agency lashed out at Dr. Yousuf al Qaradawi, widely considered one of the most eminent living Muslim religious scholars. The agency, called Muhr, castigated the great Alim, or religious scholar, for an interview he had given to an Egyptian newspaper in which he warned against organized efforts by some Shiite circles to convert Sunni Muslims to the Shiite branch of Islam. The Iranian news agency went as far as accusing al-Qaradawi of playing into the hands of Zionists and Jewish rabbis!!
I don’t usually write on religious matters, especially Sunni-Shia affairs. However, I do believe that a clear and unmistakable message should be sent to Shiite circles in Iran and elsewhere, namely that Sunnis are not about to become Shiites and that public support for Iran and Hezbullah in some Sunni countries doesn’t indicate that Sunni Muslims are infatuated with the Shiite faith.
The Sunni masses do support Hezbullah because this is the right thing to do. Hezbullah after all is fighting Israel, the evil brat of Zionism which is the ultimate enemy of Islam and Muslims.
The same thing applies to public support for Iran against the Zionist-controlled American administration which is trying so hard to deprive Iran of its right to develop nuclear technology.
People, regardless of their religious affiliations, support just causes irrespective of other considerations.
However, Sunni support for Iran against American hegemony doesn’t mean that the Sunni masses, which constitute more than 90% of Muslims worldwide, are coming to terms with the despicable habit of cursing the Companions of Prophet Muhammed, such as Abu Bakr, Omar Ibn al Khattab and Othman Ibn Affan.
Let us be very clear about this, cursing the Sahaba, as far as Sunni Muslims are concerned, is and will always remain the ultimate redline.
There can be no Muslim unity unless the Shiites brothers, especially in Iran, abandon this hateful and provocative ritual.
Luckily, some Shiite Ulema or scholars have realized this fact and adopted positive positions toward showing respect to the feelings of their Sunni brothers.
This writer has always supported Iran against Western, especially American predators.
While studying in the United States nearly three decades ago, I regularly took part in anti-Shah demonstrations on American campuses.
We shouted aloud “Tau Margi Shahi Kha’en, Nehzat Idameh dorat” (until the death of the treacherous Shah, the struggle will continue), and “ Istiklal, Azadee, Hokomati Islamee” (Independence , Freedom, Islamic Government.”
I have also written numerous articles in support of Iran and Hezbullah and will continue to do so for reasons having to do with the moral principle of siding with the weak and the oppressed against the unjust and the insolent.
Hence, the Iranian brothers, especially the people at Muhr, shouldn’t think that this defense of Sheikh Qaradawi is coming from a “Zionist agent” as they are almost innately tempted to dismiss criticisms of some of their objectionable practices and attitudes.
I had the honor to meet with Sheikh Qaradawi many years ago. And I have ever since been following up rather closely his pronouncements and positions which I have found to be quite rational and wise.
Sheikh Qaradawi has been a fierce critic of Israeli criminality and the Nazi-like oppression the Zionist regime is meting out to the helpless Palestinians. However, he has never voiced hatred or hostility toward Jews as Jews, as Zionist propaganda circles claim.
He has been a constantly loud voice urging Muslims and Arabs to show solidarity with the Palestinians.
Indeed, one would exaggerate little by saying that had it not been for Qaradawi’s efforts, the Palestinian ordeal would have been much worse.
As to his positions on Iran and Shiites, al- Qaradawi has always adopted decidedly moderate positions in this regard.
He had warmly welcomed the Iranian revolution back in 1978 as the vast bulk of Sunni Muslims did. He also stood against the Iran-Iraq war, calling it a catastrophe.
In recent years, al-Qaradawi stood against extremist Sunni groups such as al-Qaida which adopted a radical theological stance viewing Shiites, especially the Ithna Ashari Shiites (followers of the Twelve Imams) as heretical.
This position invited hostile reactions from some of the Salafi groups (fundamentalist puritanical Orthodox Sunni Muslims) especially in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.
Indeed, Qaradawi’s uncompromising views on Israel, American imperialism, the Palestinian plight and the ongoing American war on Islam, dubbed deceptively as “the war on terror” have prompted many western governments such as the US and UK to declare him a persona non grata.
So how could a man as such be serving Zionist interests when the Zionists themselves have spared no efforts vilifying and inciting against him?
Shiites circles in Iran and elsewhere miss no opportunity urging Muslims to get united in the face of Israeli aggression and expansionism. This is certainly a commendable and admirable stance.
However, true Muslim unity can’t be achieved while some influential Shiite circles in Iran and probably elsewhere retain the old repulsive practice of cursing the Sahaba of Rasullullah, or companions of the Prophet.
Is Shiism a religion based on cursing?
A few months ago, the highest-ranking Shiite Marjie (religious scholar) in Lebanon, Rev. Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadulullah issued a fatwa or religious edict prohibiting the cursing of the Sahaba.
Sunni Muslims warmly welcomed the fatwa and many Sunni intellectuals and religious leaders hoped that it would lead to a genuine reconciliation between the two camps.
However, that fatwa was eventually met with widespread opposition by some influential Shiite ulema in Iraq and Iran who couldn’t abandon the malicious canard that Sunni Muslims were Nassibi or Nawaseb (enemies of Imam Ali), the First Shiite Imam who is also the Fourth Sunni Caliph.
In truth, Sunni Muslims don’t hate Ali and his family. On the contrary, they love them so much. Don’t Sunni Muslims, as do all Muslims, recite at the end of their daily prayers “O God, may thy Peace and blessings be upon Muhammd and the family of Muhammed as Thou had bestowed they peace and blessing on Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim.”?
Besides, history shows that Imam Ali had an active working relationship with the very people many Shiites claim they hated him and dispossessed him of his divine right to become the leader of Muslims after the death of the Prophet.
Not only that, Ali actually had his own daughter married to Omar Ibn al Khattab, the man many Shiites hate most.
Well, does a man have his own daughter married to the man he hates most?
In addition, Imam Ali had three of his sons named after Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, the first three Caliphs. Hence, one is prompted to seriously question the Shiite claims that Ali hated these caliphs. Well, a man doesn’t name his own children after his worst enemies.
Ali was known of his exemplary bravery and courage. This is why it is highly unlikely that his collaboration with the caliphs occurred under duress. Ali was not the type of man who would cower under duress. He was not the type of man who would play the role of a hypocrite. His heart and his tongue were the same.
In a nutshell, the Shiite brothers should realize that Muslim unity can’t be achieved while certain Shiites keep up reviving ancient hatred by cursing and vilifying historical figures Sunni Muslims glorify and love.
Such behavior would only perpetuate Muslim disunity. It would also prove that some Shiite religious circles are not really serious about Muslim unity.
That night, Yahya was suppose to get back from the fields, like any other Palestinian teenager during Ramadan, to share Iftar -the fast-breaking meal- with his family. As they didn’t see the boy coming back and started being anxious, knowing the risk of an – unfortunately common- settler attack in the Region, they alerted the neighbours and the entire village organised a search to find the missing boy.
The body of the young shepherd was found with gunshot wounds late Saturday night, in the fields between the neighbouring settlement of Itamar and the villages of Aqraba and Awarta.
According to eyewitnesses, the teenager has been attacked by a group of settlers from Itamar and Jettit, the illegal Israeli settlements that surround Al Aqbraba village. To the witnesses, the boy was pursued by a settler’s car before they heard gunshots but did not see him being shot. From a first forensic report, the settlers shot at him at least 20 times, from close range.
“We are examining the bullets and type of gun, trying to find out who was behind (the shooting). Everything is open at the moment,” said Micky Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman.
Recent months have seen a spike in violence by West Bank settlers against Palestinians, and in some cases against Israeli security forces. The settlers from Yitzhar and Itamar settlements, built on southern Nablus lands, have routinely attacked the neighbouring Palestinian villages.
But since the beginning of September and the holy month of Ramadan, attack as such as the burnings of fields and beatings of residents villages are have been increasing. Earlier this months, settlers from the same area stabbed to death a 9 years-old Palestinian kid, burned olive trees and crops, and destroyed a water well.
According to Haaretz, in the first half of 2008, particularly in the Nablus and Hebron governorates, there has been an increase in “disturbances of the peace” – the minimalist term used for harm caused by Israeli citizens to Palestinians and their property- as well as harm to Israeli security forces. Data presented by the newspaper indicated that there were 429 such incidents in the first half of this year, compared with 587 incidents in all of 2006 and 551 in 2007.
The settlers’ violence has always been a disaster for the living conditions of the Palestinians surrounded by illegal constructions and outposts that already have taken heir land away. But now, regarding the amazing increase of violent attacks, it has become a real core issue for the Israeli society in itself as the Israeli government has few control on the settler’s behaviour as settlers defend the violence as a tactic meant to deter Israeli authorities from evacuating settlements.
For more information on that issue, please read “Settler Violence Out of Control”
She stood firm defending her home, and, like an Olive tree, died standing
Mariam died on Saturday evening after a lengthy argument with Israeli soldiers and border policemen who invaded Abu Dis. The argument ended with the soldiers beating her and throwing her to the ground, killing her.
Her daughter, Hiba, 21, was standing next to her when she died. She could not express her feelings in words and with her eyes filled with tears she said, “Yesterday my mother became a martyr, as she died at the hands of the occupiers. And it wasn’t enough for them to kill her in cold blood! They also barred the ambulance from reaching our home!”
“Dozens of soldiers came yesterday evening to our apartment building, supposedly in order to kidnap students of the Al Quds University who live in the same residential building we live in”, Hiba stated. “When the soldiers got to the floor where my brother lives with his wife and children, my mother told them that her daughter in law is alone at home with her kids. “Please, for God’s sake do not go in there, leave them alone, the kids will be terrified”, the mother told them.
Hiba added that the soldiers did not care to what her mother said, and one of them pushed her to the ground. Another soldier checked her vitals and said that she is still alive. At that moment, I tried to rush to the street to ask the neighbors to call for an ambulance, and they did. But while the army blocked the ambulance from arriving, the soldier told me that she was dead.”
“I was shocked, really shocked, I could not believe this is happening. Everything happened so fast, but now she is dead and there’s no bringing her back.”, the daughter added, “My mother died strong, as a martyr, but if the soldiers did not obstruct the ambulance, she would be alive now, we would have been able to save her life”.
In deep sorrow she added, “my sister Fida’, who lives in Jordan, could not say farewell to her, my mother was buried at 1 in the morning, because we did not let the soldiers take her body to Israel”.
Thousands of residents of Abu Dis, Al Sawahra and al Ezariyya (Bethany) participated in her funeral.
“We are currently in the holy month of Ramadan, so my mother spent her last days fasting and praying”, Hiba stated, saying she is glad for that fact and sure her mother is in heaven. But she added, in sorrow, “How will my days, and my life be without her?!”
She also said that the soldiers broke into their apartment building several times in recent months, conducting raids of the apartments in an attempt to kidnap Al Quds University students who live there.
Mousa Daoud, , head of the Al Makkased Charitable Society Clinic in Abu Dis, said that the body of Mariam Ayyad was brought to the hospital in a Red Crescent Society ambulance, and that the autopsy revealed that she suffered a fracture in her lower skull which also lead to brain hemorrhage.
“She was already dead by the time she got here, there was nothing that we could do to save her life”, Daoud stated, “Her skull was fractured when her head hit the ground”.
Fateh legislator, Jihad Abu Zeid, slammed the Israeli crime and said that the Israeli occupation is ongoing with its violations and crimes in direct violation of international laws and the basic principles of human rights.
“They committed this crime in Ramadan, this holy Muslim month. This latest crime has revealed the real face of the occupation and its plans to avoid achieving peace and stability in the region – this is what they are doing on the ground at the same time that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are attempting to reach a peace deal”, Abu Zeid added.
She also stated that the occupation is actively acting against any opportunity for peace in spite of the international efforts to achieve a peace deal.
She voiced an appeal to the international community and human rights groups to intervene and expose the Israeli crimes and oblige Israel to respect human rights and be committed to the international treaties and principles.
“They should oblige Israel to respect human rights, they should force Israel to stop its illegal assaults against our people”, Abu Zeid said.
~ Mahatma Gandhi ~
SHAME! SHAME!! SHAME!!!
The Livni illusion
Khalid Amayreh from East Jerusalem
Israeli President Peres assigns Livni to form a new government (photo: AFP)
The friendly smile hides a sinister agenda.
With Tzipi Livni succeeding Ehud Olmert as Israel’s next prime minister following her slim victory over former defense minister Shaul Mofaz on 18 September, most Palestinians are pinning few hopes on the “new” Israeli government’s ability to make a real difference in relations.
Initially, Livni’s victory generated a modicum of euphoria, especially among observers not well-versed in Israeli politics. However, a more sobre analysis of the political realities in Israel suggests that Livni won’t be able to do much in terms of reaching a final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority without having the backing of a solid majority in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
One Israeli writer remarked following Livni’s victory that “the heart wants to hope, but the brain cannot.” Some observers on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides are already predicting that the government Livni is going to form will not last long and that early general elections will have to be held in Israel sooner rather than later.
Likud opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu is already wasting no time lambasting Livni on the ground that she was only elected as prime minister by less than half a per cent of eligible Israeli voters.
Livni herself has recognised the “immense difficulties” facing her task of forming the next government, saying that she won’t call for early general elections unless her efforts to form a stable and strong government reach a dead end.
Livni has been wooing Knesset members from other parties, especially the Haredi Shas, which represents Jews of Middle Eastern origin. However, as of now, she is facing an uphill struggle forming the government given the lack of unity within her own party and the widespread calls for early elections.
Mofaz, who received the backing of nearly half of Kadima members, decided to take a time out, with some unconfirmed reports that he might be contemplating returning to the Likud. This means that the next Israeli prime minister will not have her own party solidly behind her, which may very well shorten the duration of her government.
Kadima, the party formed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, has never been ideologically and politically homogenous. Moreover, last week’s internal party elections which Livni won by a majority of no more than 400 voters illustrated the sharp divisions between the right-wing extremists within the party who voted for Mofaz and the pragmatic Jabotinskyites who voted for Livni.
Publicly, the Palestinian Authority welcomed the election of Livni as the lesser of two evils, given the hawkish character of Mofaz.
Saeb Ureikat, a PA negotiator, said he hoped Livni would engage more deeply in the peace process, leading to a final-status agreement that would put an end to 41 years of Israeli military occupation and Palestinian statehood.
However, given Livni’s profile, Ureikat’s remarks were more about diplomatic pleasantries and less about a genuine Palestinian conviction that Livni is the right person for advancing peace.
A known Sharonite, Livni stands firmly against the dismantlement of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and opposes a return to the 1967 borders. She is also vehemently against the repatriation of Palestinian refugees who were uprooted and expelled from their homes when Israel was created more than 60 years ago.
Mahmoud Muhareb, a professor of Israeli Studies at Al-Quds University, says it is foolhardy to pin real hopes on Livni for advancing the peace process. “In essence, Livni belongs to the Sharon school. Her overall strategy is to annex the largest possible part of the West Bank, especially in Jerusalem, and impose the fait accompli on the Palestinians.”
Muhareb said Livni would keep up Judaising the occupied territories, especially East Jerusalem, and at the same time keep a superficial peace process alive in order to impede the restoration of Palestinian unity. “Her pronouncements and positions as foreign minister show that she is a real extremist.” She insists that the Palestinians “must recognise Israel as a state for the Jews”.
Muhareb argued that Israel’s engagement in peace-making is not attributed to a genuine desire for peace and justice. “The driving factor behind the peace process as far as Israel is concerned is the demographic problem. Israel wants as much as possible of Palestinian geography and as little as possible of Palestinian demography.”
Another Palestinian intellectual, Hani Al-Masri, reflected the prevailing feeling among most Palestinians by arguing that there are no fundamental differences between Israeli leaders. “They all agree that Israel must not return to the 1967 borders, that the refugees must never be allowed to return home, that Israel must retain control over Palestinian borders and border-crossings and that any Palestinian entity would have to be subservient to Israel in one way or the other.”
Al-Masri pointed out that the lingering negotiations between PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei and Livni, which have been going on for over a year, have achieved virtually nothing. “These fruitless talks give the impression that there is a peace process going on, where there is really none. This is why the world is making no genuine efforts to force Israel to end the occupation.”
Al-Masri argued that any government formed by Livni would have to appease the Jewish extremists, otherwise she would lose parliamentary confidence. “In order for Livni to be able to form a durable government, she will have to keep Jerusalem as a part of Israel. Hence, we must not pin hopes on Livni and other Israeli leaders. We must rely on ourselves by restoring our national unity and build our own strength.”
Nonetheless, Livni is likely to continue the peace talks with the PA. According to observers, the new Israeli premier-designate is likely to press the Palestinian leadership to show a willingness to compromise and not to “waste this opportunity”.
According to Israeli writer Uri Avnery, Livni is convinced that the only way to maintain Israel as a Jewish state is the creation of a Palestinian state. However, it is also true that Livni believes that the creation of a Palestinian state would also provide a solution for Israeli citizens who are non-Jews.
In other words, the two-state solution as envisaged by Livni would entail the ultimate expulsion of Israel’s Palestinian minority at some point in the future, which really places her in the extreme right-wing camp.