Is Abbas Sabotaging the Palestinians?

By Phil Zabriskie/Jerusalem

Often, the ideological intransigence of Hamas is blamed for impeding Palestinian unity. But on Sunday it was the moderate Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas who dealt a potentially debilitating blow to the nascent Palestinian “unity” government — by appointing Mohammed Dahlan, the most divisive figure on the Palestinian political scene today, to the office of National Security Adviser.

The unity government was ratified on Saturday, in simultaneous proceedings in both Gaza and the West Bank connected via video conference technology to overcome Israeli prohibitions on most Palestinians’ traveling between the two locations. Israel’s response was predictably negative; officials pointed out that the new government had not accepted international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel, and that even the moderates who now run key ministries are tainted by their political cohabitation with Hamas. Other governments showed more flexibility, ranging from full recognition of the new government (Norway, Arab countries) through cautious optimism (the European Union, Russia, the United Nations) to the idea that it might be possible to deal with ministers who were not members of Hamas (Britain, and even the United States). Continue reading “Is Abbas Sabotaging the Palestinians?”

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Israel’s right to be racist

The matter-of-factness with which the state of Israel claims the right to treat non-Jews as lesser animals is shocking and annuls any move towards peace, writes Joseph Massad*


Israel’s struggle for peace is a sincere one. In fact, Israel desires to live at peace not only with its neighbours, but also and especially with its own Palestinian population, and with Palestinians whose lands its military occupies by force. Israel’s desire for peace is not only rhetorical but also substantive and deeply psychological. With few exceptions, prominent Zionist leaders since the inception of colonial Zionism have desired to establish peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs whose lands they slated for colonisation and settlement. The only thing Israel has asked for, and continues to ask for in order to end the state of war with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours, is that all recognise its right to be a racist state that discriminates by law against Palestinians and other Arabs and grants differential legal rights and privileges to its own Jewish citizens and to all other Jews anywhere. The resistance that the Palestinian people and other Arabs have launched against Israel’s right to be a racist state is what continues to stand between Israel and the peace for which it has struggled and to which it has been committed for decades. Indeed, this resistance is nothing less than the “New anti- Semitism”.

Israel is willing to do anything to convince Palestinians and other Arabs of why it needs and deserves to have the right to be racist. Even at the level of theory, and before it began to realise itself on the ground, the Zionist colonial project sought different means by which it could convince the people whose lands it wanted to steal and against whom it wanted to discriminate to accept as understandable its need to be racist. Continue reading “Israel’s right to be racist”

Talking to the enemy

The recent Guardian debate between Hamas and Israel is a small but important step forward.

Ismail Patel

The Guardian has achieved what recent politicians, academics and diplomats have failed to do – it has created a forum for debate by bringing together two sides of a six-decade long conflict by printing Khalid Mish’al’s article and the subsequent response by Zvi Heifetz, the Israeli ambassador in London. This is a small, but under the circumstances, significant achievement.

The past year has been an experience in new depths of pain for the Palestinian people. While Israel has vehemently worked to disfranchise Hamas since its inception, this reached new intensity following Hamas’ election victory in January 2006.

Mr Heifetz’s response to Mr Mish’al is telling of Hamas’ reality: a party that has not only been given a mandate by its people but is slowly being acknowledged by almost all of its neighbouring states as a legitimate authority over Palestinians.

Even President Abbas, who has resisted conceding to the Hamas mandate for so long, both acknowledged Mr Mish’al as the rightful leader of Hamas and accepted Hamas’ terms recently in Mecca. This admittance by President Abbas consequently meant that the summit between US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, President Abbas and prime minister Olmert became all but insignificant on the ground.

This is an indication of the waning influence of those present and the absence of the real power broker for the Palestinians – Hamas.

In his comment, Mr Heifetz presumes a failure in Hamas’ achievements over the past year. Yet their success lies in the reality that a year ago neither he nor any of his contemporaries would have bothered to respond to Mr Mish’al publicly, especially if it was only an article in a newspaper.

However, Hamas in the past year has not only provided the Palestinians with a transparent, accountable and honest government but has further spelled out two significant points: the Palestinian struggle for liberation will continue despite Israeli, US and European sanctions and will verify that political Islam and democracy can go hand in glove.

While accusations against Palestinians for their refusal to recognise Israel are rife; a quick glance over Israel’s own history, even prior to its inception in 1948 shows a state that has been unwilling to recognise even the existence of a Palestinian people.

From the pre-Israel “land without a people” propaganda, to politicians like the late Golda Meir stating “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”, there are innumerable examples of a failure to recognise an entire population. However, these facts are rarely mentioned when Israel demands that Palestinians recognise its existence, while simultaneously refusing to clarify the exact boundaries of the state it is being asked to recognise. Even after the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel finally recognised the Palestinian people but not Palestine.

Since coming to power in January 2006, Hamas has also been faced with numerous provocative Israeli military strikes against the Palestinian people, including the Beit Hanoun and Gazabeach massacres, and in total over 600 were killed. It also faced the arrest and imprisonment of its ministers and MPs, but it constrained its right to retaliate.

Yet the international community, which should have allowed the Hamas government to dedicate its efforts in ameliorating the dire situation of its people, instead catapulted it into a political abyss by imposing sanctions and boycotts. The US went as far as funding Fatah’s leader, Mr Abbas, in recruiting a presidential guard which would sow the seeds of a civil conflict leading to over 100 Palestinian deaths.

Despite these alarming efforts by Israel, the US and European powers to destabilise Hamas, since coming to power it has made phenomenal concessions. Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniya have confirmed that peace and security for Palestinians comes before their own positions in government. Thus, they have obliged the international community in its demand for the formation of a unity government and accepted to have only nine ministers out of a total of 19.

Most recently, Mr Mish’al stated in the Guardian that Hamas is willing to establish a “sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967”. This statement from a government whose leaders have sacrificed their personal standing and interests over their nation’s freedom needs to be taken seriously. It is high time the international community called upon Israel for once to prove its commitment to peace by abiding by international law and dozens of UN resolutions dating as far back as 1948.

As a first step and a goodwill gesture, perhaps Israel can begin by demolishing the wall that is being built deep in the 1967-occupied territories, deliberately creating new facts on the ground and pre-empting the creation of any viable Palestinian state outside the green line border. Maybe then the world will start to believe Israel is serious about peace.

The Farthest Masjid

First Qibla – Bait-al-Maqdis (Al-Aqsa):

AT THE HEART OF JERUSALEM is the Al-Aqsa mosque or The third most sacred mosque in the world, enclosing over 35 acres of fountains, gardens, buildings and domes. At its southernmost end is Qibly Mosalla or al-Aqsa Mosalla, which was built by Khalifa Omar Bin Al-Kattab in the year 19 Hijri. At its center is the celebrated Dome of the Rock. The entire area is regarded as Baitul-Maqdis or Al-Qudus or Al-Aqsa Mosque and comprises nearly one sixth of the walled city of Jerusalem.

MUHARRAM

(1) Narrated ‘Aisha: The people used to fast on ‘Ashura (the tenth day of the month of muharram) before the fasting of Ramadan was made obligatory. And on that day the Ka’ba used to be covered with a cover. When Allah made the fasting of the month of Ramadan compulsory, Allah’s Apostle said, “Whoever wishes to fast (on the day of ‘Ashura’) may do so; and whoever wishes to leave it can do so.”  (Book #26, Hadith #662)

(2) Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: The Prophet observed the fast on the 10th of muharram (‘Ashura), and ordered (Muslims) to fast on that day, but when the fasting of the month of Ramadan was prescribed, the fasting of the ‘Ashura’ was abandoned. ‘Abdullah did not use to fast on that day unless it coincided with his routine fasting by chance.  (Book #31, Hadith #116)
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(3) Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa: Once the Prophet ordered a person on ‘Ashura’ (the tenth of muharram) to announce, “Whoever has eaten, should not eat any more, but fast, and who has not eaten should not eat, but complete his fast (till the end of the day).  (Book #31, Hadith #147) Continue reading “MUHARRAM”

Switzerland says it mediated in informal Israel-Syria peace talks

            By Assaf Uni and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondents

        Switzerland served as a mediator in informal talks between Israeli and Syrian representatives, which were first reported in Haaretz last week, Swiss Foreign Minister and Federal Councilor Micheline Calmy-Ray said Monday.

        The parties to the secret back-channel negotiations with Syria met with relatives of Israeli spy Eli Cohen’s family and discussed the possibility that Damascus would allow his remains to be repatriated one peace talks are renewed. One of the meetings was sponsored by the Foreign Ministry.

Nadia Cohen, widow of the executed spy, told Haaretz Continue reading “Switzerland says it mediated in informal Israel-Syria peace talks”