Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hamas are Behaving Barbarically

Following yesterday's complaint about Hamas vandalism in Gaza (another picture of a Hamas activist in Nabil Shaath's home just before they burnt it down is posted here), the following is particularly relevant. It came in from Felix with the comment, "You should look at that special dispatch and post it on your blog. It comes close to what needs to be said by Muslims to their terror coreligionists":

In a July 1, 2007 op-ed posted on the Arab reformist website http://www.aafaq.org/, Sa'd Al-Din Ibrahim, well-known Egyptian sociologist and civil rights activist and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, criticized Hamas, Hizbullah, and Fath Al-Islam for using violence within their own societies.

While he has long been a supporter of integrating Islamist movements into the political process, and while in his op-ed he does not back down from this position, he writes that in light of recent events, it is understandable that people are now asking whether there is a connection between Islam and violence. He also writes to urge moderate Islamists to "defend themselves and their religion" against the extremists.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hamas behaviour?

Maie sent a series of pictures of alleged Hamas thugs in Gaza with the message:

I hope you would enjoy what happened to the house of Nabeel Shaath by the militias of Hamas.
Love, Maie

We will take the issue up with Hamas

Friday, July 27, 2007

Start with the settlements

Stephanie Khouri is London based these days and sometimes comes along to meetings. Rafi Dajani sent this saying, "A Daily Star (Lebanon) opinion by former Palestinian Liberation Organization legal advisor Stephanie Koury argues that initiatives that do not address Israeli settlements, the separation barrier and Hamas' isolation are doomed to fail". Which is true as far as it goes.

FOR A START, TACKLE THOSE ISRAELI SETTLEMENT AND THAT WALL By Stephanie Koury, The Daily Star, Opinion (Lebanon) July 27, 2007

Recently, US President George W. Bush announced plans to provide direct aid to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government and to convene an international conference aimed at securing Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two state solution. His initiative followed closely on the heels of the Quartet's appointment of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as its Middle East envoy whose mandate is to oversee Palestinian reform.
While these recent initiatives suggest seriousness on the Quartet's part, its efforts will once again amount to naught unless it immediately tackles Israel's construction of settlements and the separation wall in the occupied West Bank, and revises its approach to isolating Hamas. To date, the Quartet has been reluctant to do either.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Middle East Investment Programme

Press Release from Rafi Dajani, ATFP:

Ramallah, West Bank —The American Task Force on Palestine today welcomed the launch of the Middle East Investment Initiative Program, which will generate $228 million dollars in loans to small and medium-sized Palestinian businesses. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, U.S. Under Secretary for Public Affairs Karen Hughes and President of the American Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) Rob Mosbacher, Jr. today put into motion the plans approved by President George W. Bush to provide investment capital to improve the Palestinian economy and the living standards of Palestinians.

This Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII) loan fund is a joint venture between OPIC the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and the Aspen Institute, with the government of Norway providing organizational support. President Bush announced the approval of the OPIC loan program on July 16 as a part of a U.S. government assistance package to Palestine including $144 million in assistance to UNRWA; $190 million for basic human needs, food aid, democracy, civil society and private sector development; and $80 million to help reform the official security services of the Palestinian Authority.

ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali, traveling as an officially invited member of the U.S. State Department delegation praised the program saying, “Investing in the Palestinian people is a critical move to empower forces of moderation in the region. Investment creates jobs, jobs create stability, and stability creates moderation and progress towards peace. The Middle East Investment Initiative is global action positively impacting individual Palestinians.” He also noted that the United States’ support of the Palestinian government through MEII “demonstrates the confidence that the United States, and indeed the world have in the Abbas-Fayyad government as it works to advance Palestinian economic, security and political prospects.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A hopeful picture?

It may not be taking place in the kind of circumstances that gave us so much hope a few years back but this is a historic picture nevertheless.

Full Story

Hamas, Fatah in Stalemate in West Bank

Fatah is getting into deeper and deeper trouble as it becomes perceived as the "violent" and disordered group - even in the West Bank - whereas Hamas becomes perceived as responsible. Fatah's electoral popularity is also in question. And Abu Mazin's poipularity has slumped. Fatah reform becomes ever more urgent if Fatah is not to destroy itself. For an interesting article see this AP item sent in by Rafi Dajani of ATFP

Hamas, Fatah in Stalemate in West Bank - By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Writer - Monday, July 23, 2007
When the Nablus City Council met for the first time after Gaza's violent takeover by Hamas, the only thing its members from rivals Hamas and Fatah didn't haggle over was ordering kunafa, the sticky pastry their city is famous for.
The heated five-hour session reflected an uneasy new stalemate in the West Bank since the fall of Gaza to Hamas. Fatah is pushing hard to restrict Hamas' influence, but the Islamists, who have won control of several key towns in local elections since 2005, are too deeply rooted in Palestinian society to be sidelined easily.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Blair arrives in the region, Hamas: We would talk to you but not to Israel

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Monday that his organization would be willing to talk with the Quartet's new Mideast envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair, but not with Israel.
"We won't say no to anyone, including Tony Blair," Zuhri told The Times on Monday. "We are willing to maintain ties with anyone as long as it isn't the occupier."
Hamas responded with outrage when Blair was appointed in late June by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - as their special envoy.

Last week, Hamas warned Blair not to ignore the group, and maintained that marginalizing Hamas would erode his credibility in his new position.
Political sources in Jerusalem said Sunday that Blair is expected to stray from his mandate and try to further diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Sources in the Foreign Ministry say that Blair is unlikely to deal with "technical" matters - building institutions and mobilizing the support of donor countries - and will focus on furthering the diplomatic process.
"From this point of view, Israel is less enthusiastic," a political source in Jerusalem said Sunday.
Blair is scheduled to arrive in Israel Monday for a series of meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The former British prime minister is on his first visit to the region in his new capacity, and senior political sources in Jerusalem say he will begin studying the Palestinian Authority's situation before starting his official mandate of helping the Palestinians build institutions of state.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bush`s credibility deficit

Adam Keller sends this from TOI-Billboard. This shows how stupid people can be who don't like the idea of compromise.

Khaled Amayreh - Al-Ahram - (...) the kind of state the Palestinians have in mind would include 100 per cent of the occupied territories, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They are unlikely to trade that vision for a territorially disconnected state lacking sovereignty and authority, whatever the blandishments offered in the remaining months of the Bush presidency.

by Khaled Amayreh Al-Ahram Weekly, 19 - 25 July 2007 http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/854/fr1.htm
President George Bush`s history of unfulfilled promises and fanatical embrace of Israel`s expansionistic policies mean that most Palestinians dismiss his latest peace proposals as `mendacious` and `insincere`.`Only gullible people would give Bush the benefit of the doubt,` said Hamas, reacting to Bush`s Monday call for a `regional-international meeting` to plot general outlines for a possible final-status settlement.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Can Fatah Compete with Hamas?

Dennis Ross writing in the New Republic:

It may be fashionable among some in Washington or even Tel Aviv to believe that it is time to talk to Hamas. But to the members of Fatah and the Palestinian independents in the West Bank with whom I have been meeting, it surely is not. What you hear from them is that Hamas is made up of killers; that they want to be part of a larger Islamist empire; that they are already trying to bring Iran to Gaza; and that the worse thing to do now is to reward Hamas with recognition.

For that reason, you also hear criticism of the Saudis who are pressing Mahmoud Abbas to reconcile with Hamas and forge a new national unity government. Indeed, I was struck by the almost unanimous sentiment that the reconciliation talks which both the Saudis and Egyptians are pushing -- and Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh favor -- will not change Hamas's behavior. Instead, the story goes, Hamas will use them as a tactic to try to build its international acceptability. Worse, it would use a new national unity government to try to do in the West Bank what it has now done in Gaza.

Strong words, but is Fatah ready to compete? Can Fatah transform itself and connect again with the Palestinian public? Can its members reorganize themselves and build such a strong grassroots base that the balance of forces will change between Hamas and Fatah. (This competition might also affect the balance inside Hamas between those who are more programmatic and those who are most extreme). Hamas and within Hamas? Listen to Palestinians from different factions like Abu Kholi, a Palestinian Council member from Gaza, or Husayn Al-Sheikh, a member of the Tanzim from the West Bank, and you will hear that Fatah does not have a choice.

Click here for full article

Saturday, July 14, 2007

As Shells Fall, Goods Go to Gaza

This New York Times item comes in from Rafi Dajani at ATFP. I am not sure how realistic it is. The Gaza clampdown seems total. For the first time ever I cannot get in. Well not yet anyhow - we are still trying.

KEREM SHALOM, Israel, July 11 — Real life has a way of intruding into the airy absolutes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each side may deny the other’s historical legitimacy, or plot the other’s demise, but somehow, the gritty business of coexistence marches on.

For the past month, since the Islamic militants of Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, Israel has kept the main commercial crossing point at Karni shuttered, squeezing the life out of the limp Gazan economy. Israel bans contact with Hamas, and Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction, making border crossing etiquette more precarious than elsewhere.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Only if Guided by International Law

Rafi Dajani of ATFP sends this item. This is an issue the NCF has done a lot of work on. One key problem is the rules of engagement for any such force:

In BitterLemons (Israel/Palestine) former Palestinian minister of planning Ghassan Khatib outlines the factors that would make it acceptable for Palestinians to have an international force in the occupied territories ONLY IF GUIDED BY INTERNATIONAL LAW By Ghassan Khatib Bitter Lemons, Opinion (Palestine/Israel) July 9, 2007

The idea of deploying international forces in Palestine to ease tensions and violence with Israel is yet again being bandied about. The difference this time is the response by all parties. It used to be an idea that Israel rejected and Palestinians promoted. Now the Palestinians, unsurprisingly, are divided and the Israelis are hesitant.
The idea of international peacekeeping forces was always encouraged by the peace camps in Palestine and Israel because it is consistent with their approach and the kind of solution they are after, namely one based on international legality, including the relevant UN resolutions. International forces would, as part of their remit, serve to monitor the behavior of the parties, and since Israeli practices in the occupied territories are always in contradiction with these laws, Israel has always avoided such a third party role.


Monday, July 09, 2007

The root cause of terrorism is the culture of hate - not the 'West's' policies

Felix sends these excellent articles, stating they are a 'must read'.  Former dean of the shari'a and law faculty at Qatar University Dr Al-Ansari's voice of reason would be well placed on any of our blogs relating to the Middle East, since terrorism is a transnational problem.  Indeed, if we had a blog about that ill-defined entity called 'The West', I should post this on there too.  All too many in the West still believe that we are somehow to blame for the sickness that ails the Muslim extremist - or that a few tweaks in foreign policy would be enough to address the problem.   Click here to read the entire piece.

Terrorism - The Outcome of a Culture of Hatred

In an article titled "How to Make Our Young People Love Life" in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Dr. Al-Ansari stated that it is the culture of hatred and extremism in the Arab countries that causes terrorism:

"Terrorism is the fruit of hatred - hatred of life, hatred of civilization and the [modern] era, hatred of society and state, hatred of living people. The young people who have become tools of murder and human bombs are the sons of the culture of hatred, and the outcome of a fanatical culture and extremist ideology that sees life, its pleasures, and its beauty as unimportant. Ultimately the political, economic, social, and religious motives that push [the young people] to blow themselves up lie in a single main cause - and that is the culture of hatred.

"These young people, at the age of flowering, have become the enemies of their society, avenging, hating, and exploding. They are our terrorist sons, raised in our bosoms, suckled by our culture, taught in our schools, and taught religious law from our religious pulpits and by the fatwas of our clerics.

"What, then, has made them prefer death to life? I have no answer except the fact that we have not managed to make them love life. We have taught them to die for the sake of Allah, but we have not taught them to love, to build, to create, and to help society for the sake of Allah. We have taught them that nationalism [means] attacking America and opposing imperialism, but we have not taught them that nationalism is love, loyalty, and belonging to the homeland...

"How can this miserable creature called the Arab and Muslim individual not turn to extremism, when he is surrounded by an overall atmosphere of extremism, bound by the shackles of repression and prohibitions, and girded by the ideas of intimidation and terrorization, and of almost endless torment? These accompany this creature from birth to death, beginning with dire warnings about the torments of the grave and enemy plots lying in wait for Islam and the Muslims, [as well as] the long list of prohibitions that has made blessed life - the gift of the Creator - into a prison of pain, from which the individual seeks to escape to Paradise and to the lovely maidens in it.

"As if all this were not enough, we even employ religious police to follow the people, to restrict their freedoms, to spy on them, and to interfere in their personal affairs. So how can there not be widespread phenomena of tension and worry in the souls [of the people]?...

"Go to hear a Friday sermon, and you will find a preacher who is enraged at the world, angry at civilization, spreading the poison of hatred and enmity. Then you will leave [the mosque] tense and angry!...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Warnings from Gaza

Felix thought we might be interested in this from Newt Gingrich:

The Hamas victory in Gaza is a warning that World War IV (as Norman Podhoretz has called it) is going to be long and hard. It is also a warning that the West is currently losing that war.
These defeats are not a function of the courage and will of the American people. In a June poll sponsored by American Solutions, 85 percent of the American people said it was important to defend America and its allies. Only 10 percent were opposed. On an even stronger question, 75 percent said it was important to defeat America's enemies. Only 16 percent disagreed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BBC's Alan Johnston is released

The BBC reporter Alan Johnston emerged blinking into the sunlight of Gaza City today after spending almost four months as the prisoner of the extremist Army of Islam, an ordeal he said was "like being buried alive". The reporter was freed at around 3.30am after 114 days in captivity and as Hamas fighters closed in around the compound of the extremist group that had held him.

To read full Times coverage click here

To read full BBC report click here

Monday, July 02, 2007

Our second biggest mistake in the Middle East

There are a number of different interpretations of the violence in Gaza and its implications. This comes from Alastair Crooke, founder of Conflicts Forum and former British intelligence officer in the Middle East.

‘The situation in Gaza is dangerous, and the danger is that Hamas will take over and turn Gaza into “Hamastan” – into a kingdom of thugs, murderers, terrorists, poverty and despair.’ This was the reaction of Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s deputy defence minister, to Hamas’s seizure of a number of key security institutions in Gaza in the days leading up to 14 June, when Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah, dismissed the unity government. But, despite what much of the media says, this is not a ‘civil war’, and Hamas is not made up of ‘gangs beyond the control of their leaders’. Hamas’s action was conducted with the aim of removing the influence of just one of Fatah’s security forces in Gaza, the militia controlled by Muhammad Dahlan, Abbas’s national security adviser. Hamas has insisted that this has not been a conflict with Fatah in general, and it was notable that neither the Palestinian security forces – effectively the Palestinian ‘army’ – nor the police in Gaza were targets of the recent violence.
To read in full click here