Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christians stream out of Gaza for Christmas

EREZ BORDER CROSSING, Gaza Strip (AFP) — Hundreds of Christians in Gaza flocked to the heavily armed crossing with Israel on Monday after securing permission to leave the Hamas-run territory for Christmas.

Married couples laden with suitcases and young children, teenagers with parents, and grandparents wrapped up against the chill struggled to walk unaided on the long muddy path from the main road to the Erez checkpoint.

Most were hoping to pray on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, the small town in the West Bank where the Bible says Jesus was born. Others were hoping to visit relatives in the occupied West Bank, Israel or Jerusalem.

"We only got the permission last night. It took a month to come through, so then we had to immediately prepare everything and pack," said Rania Sabieh, guarding the luggage and her two children as her husband went to register.

"We're going to Bethlehem to pray. For one week. We have friends there, but then we'll come back to Gaza. My husband doesn't have a job but the children need to go back to school here," said Rania.

Israel has imposed a total closure on Gaza since Hamas -- a radical Islamist movement officially sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state -- seized armed control of the territory six months ago, routing Palestinian moderates.

Declaring the territory a "hostile entity", Israel has imposed cuts on fuel deliveries and allows in only essential humanitarian supplies.

The United Nations has warned that Israeli restrictions on Gaza are pushing the local economy to the brink of collapse.

Israel has granted permits to 520 of about 3,500 Christians living in Gaza to leave in order to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in Israel and the West Bank until January 2.

"Today we are coordinating for more than 500 Christians in Gaza to go to Israel and the West Bank for the Christmas celebrations," Israeli Colonel Meir Press told AFP by telephone.

"The Christians will be leaving today. It's a special privilege," said Shadi Yassin, spokesman for the Israeli military administration.

"They will be receiving a special permit that allows them to travel between the West Bank and Israel freely and that way they can celebrate and participate in Christmas and New Year as they choose," he said.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Exchanging Donkeys for Cars

Donald McIntyre for the Independent,

For, while working donkeys have been bought and sold in Gaza since before Samson pulled down the Philistines' temple, it is a long time since they have been as valuable as they are now. Prices have risen, according to the traders, by up to 60 per cent since Israel closed off the enclave after Hamas's enforced takeover of the Strip almost six months ago.

Yet despite that – and, he says, that the donkey feed has also gone up from five to 15 shekels (£1.95) a day since June – Mr Sabour has decided it makes sense to sell his car and buy the creature instead. The unemployed Mr Dabour has sold his car and now intends to use a donkey and cart to sell cucumbers, onions and other vegetables door to door. "There are no jobs here, so I am going to create my own work," he said.

read on

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hamas Advisor's letter to Condoleezza Rice

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cutting the Power in Tel Aviv

Notice that appeared on doors of homes in Tel Aviv Today:

"Cutting power is a step taken when no other alternatives remain, and one we are forced to take given the presence, in your city, of neighborhoods full of headquarters of an army that carries out war crimes and harms civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Out of humanitarian concerns, the power cuts will not be total, and we will leave it to your discretion whether to divert the remaining electricity to hospitals, the sewage system, or private homes."

read on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Israel's Chemical Weapons

I recall walking down the isles of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City hearing Dr Attallah speak of the horrendous injuries and deaths he had witnessed during his recent years working there. Little was ever proven, little was ever written about it, but he had seen with his own eyes what could only be the used of some unknown chemical weapon. Others have espoused that Israel uses Gaza as testing ground for newly developed weapons. Just over a year ago Haaretz ran a piece on an Italian investigative team who had issued a report after identifying irregular injuries in the Shifa hospital in Gaza. James Brooks from Aljazeera added this in depth report shortly thereafter.

This letter in the Guardian yesterday speaks of such things.

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor (Response, November 30) denies Israel used chemical weapons in Gaza. Claims and counterclaims about the use of such weapons have a long history and are often hard to verify. Mr Prosor's denial must be judged against the reports by health workers in Gaza of injured Palestinians suffering from "severe convulsions, muscle spasms, vomiting, amnesia or partial memory loss" after exposure to Israeli gas attacks (multiple references available). Last year the IDF fired powerful gases at a peaceful joint Palestinian and Israeli demonstration against the wall being driven through B'lin, a village in the occupied West Bank. My colleagues and I were able to obtain a sample of the munition. It contained a powerful irritant derived from capsaicin (the analysis was published in the international peer-reviewed journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival in October last year).

Claims that the IDF used white phosphorus in the Lebanon war last year were initially denied. They were finally admitted by the Israeli minister Jacob Edery in October 2006. White phosphorus causes intense burns and generates choking fumes. I suspect the Israeli government is basing its denials on a technical quibble about whether the chemicals concerned are explicitly banned in international law - to which, anyhow, it is not a signatory.
Professor Steven Rose

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Letter from Gaza

My friend Yasmine wrote me this letter from Gaza.
It speaks for itself of a reality we can only imagine from such a distance.

Dear all,

I'm sorry for not being in touch and for not writing sooner, but words are failing me, and I cannot articulate what Gaza feels like right now. A hopeless prison with a dark gloomy cloud over it. It's been raining for three days now and its starting to get cold. Unfortunately with rainstorms, come power outages, so that means there is no water or electric heaters. Gas heaters are not operatable either because of the high gas price, that's when gas is even available. But also because most people are saving their gas for cooking food, rather than using it for heaters, especially with a possible invasion coming in two weeks and the possible cut off of gas. I feel for people without access to heat. I also feel for people like my aunt whose house was demolished and is living in a half built house with no windows that UNRWA stopped building because they ran out of cement and other building materials. It's the beginning of the winter. It's only going to get colder.

I also can't help but think of Gaza's sick and dying….in their frailty, lying there helpless…wishing…hoping…praying that by God's mercy they would be allowed a permit to leave Gaza, or by some sort of miracle someone will save them. But most are denied access..…and most die a slow agonizing death, and only then are their bodies free.

And the world reads about it, but its just another story, another one of Gaza's tragedies. But I wish the world would realize how real this is and how real these sick people are. Some of these sick patients are my uncle who has heart disease, or my little cousin with a tumor, and now unfortunately my aunt's husband who one day was walking, and the next day woke up crippled from a brain tumor. And when you see people you care about so sick and unable to leave Gaza, you first get angry for having such shitty luck, and for the injustice of the world….the type of anger that turns into fury and consumes you, until it becomes exhausting. You then resign yourself to the reality of Gaza's fate…which finally sinks in. But with that reality comes hopelessness and the crippling feeling of helplessness. And so my uncle, my cousin and my aunt's husband lie in a hospital, waiting for their permits, and none of us can do a thing other than pray or chase around people who may know someone who knows someone who can help us with a permit. But we know full well how real death is, and that most just die while waiting. And then a human rights organization issues a statement, yet again, another Palestinian dies because they were denied access to medical care. And their only crime was being born Palestinian in Gaza and falling ill. Nowhere else will you see this but in Gaza. And no place else will the world remain silent at the obscenity of Israel's inhumane acts, except in Gaza.

It's hard to not feel like we're in a large concentration camp as I see Gaza's empty streets, and the hopeless feeling in the air…and just the gloominess that has covered Gaza. I think most people feel abandoned as we are literally locked up in this small, concentrated space and we don't know what the world plans for us, or what to expect next. It's hard to imagine what being in Gaza does to someone's will until you've come here. You no longer feel alive, in fact, you're not living; you're just killing time until some sort of change happens. Sadly, Gaza has become desensitized to the rest of the world, as it feels like the international community has turned a blind eye to the reality that is Gaza, and as long as Israel is allowing some food in and hasn't completely cut off electricity or gas..and as long as we are kept alive, no one will ask about us.

But just because we are breathing, that doesn't mean we're alive.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Hamas: Between Oppression and Salvation

I spoke to Jamal and his family on Skype today. Abdallah is learning new songs in Kindergarten and was practicing them with me, Mohamed invited me for lunch and Maysa, the oldest and always chipper, was summing up conditions in Gaza.

Flour prices are up from 80 to 200 shekels a bag. Cigarette prices are so high that Jamal has reduced his smoking drastically, at least one good side effect of a choking siege.

“All things have become expensive in Gaza, except for humans, they are still cheap,” Jamal added with his typical manner of hitting the hammer on the nail.

Since the big Fatah parade on Monday in anniversary of Yassir Arafat’s death, Jamal told me Fatah members are being continuously arrested by Hamas. Aljazeera cited 100,000 participants at the rally. “People walked to Gaza City from all directions,” Jamal said, “they came from as far away as Rafah in the South and here from the North.”

Next to Jamal’s Skype username is an image of his name etched into
the sand of Gaza’s beach with a short phrase next to it: “Sa-asbir hatta yanal al-sabr mini, I will be patient until patience overcomes me.”

Haaretz’s Gideon Levy gives Jamal’s fears of Hamas an interesting twist. Gideon recently interviewed Israeli soldiers returning from a military mission to Gaza. Here are some excerpts,

“The group of reservist paratroopers returned all astir: Hamas fought like an army. The comrades of Sergeant-Major (Res.) Ehud Efrati, who fell in a battle in Gaza about two weeks ago, told Amos Harel that "in all parameters, we are facing an army, not gangs." The soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces were impressed by their enemy's night vision equipment, the tactical space they kept between one another—and their pants even had elastic bands to make them fit snugly around their boots. This is good news from Gaza...

Furthermore, the fact that an army has arisen in Gaza, if this assessment is correct, is liable to prevent another large-scale, ground-based military operation with its many casualties and futility. Perhaps the reservists' reports will dissuade the defence minister from carrying out his plan to conquer Gaza and will motivate Israel to try, for the first time, a different approach with Hamas—negotiations. Only the recognition of Hamas' strength is liable to persuade Israel to be cautious about another operation, and only its military build-up will make us understand the full stupidity of the boycott policy that was designed to weaken Hamas.”

Hamas’ lack of tolerance for internal opposition to their authority is horrible news, six demonstrators were killed during clashes with Hamas security forces on Monday. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned,
the excessive use of force by the Palestinian police to disperse the participants in the Fatah rally in Gaza City yesterday. The Centre condemns the use of gunfire that resulted in the death of 6 civilians, including a 12-year old boy, and injury of more than 80 others. The Centre calls upon the Palestinian government in Gaza to immediately investigate these attacks, prosecute the perpetrators, and take serious steps to prevent their recurrence.
But good news, as Gideon points out is that Hamas’ increased military capacity also raises the potentiality of Hamas to represent the rights and the needs of Palestinians on an international platform. Although such military logic seems skewed to me personally, it is the same logic that allows for some form of stability between Pakistan and India by the fact of both of them owning nuclear weapons. Relative military equality creates a form of stability between two powers. If this is the case in Gaza it is one thing all Palestinians, both supporters of Hamas and Fatah, can be grateful of Hamas for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Types of our Dead

These Reports from Haaretz ( Qassam strike kills 7 cows on kibbutz near Gaza, Nov. 13) and IMEC- (Israeli army kills two Palestinian children in central Gaza, Nov. 10) respectively.

Seven cows were killed at Kibbutz Zikim near Gaza yesterday in a Qassam rocket attack, and a number of workers were treated for shock.

Palestinian medical sources on Saturday evening reported that three Palestinians, two of them children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip during the course of the day.

Kibbutz members said that because of the attack, milk production was expected to fall over the coming days.

An eyewitness said that "following the alarm we heard a very loud explosion. The Qassam fell a few meters from where the workers were sitting, and we were lucky that no one was injured.

Of those killed, one is thought to have been a member of a Palestinian resistance faction. The identity of the man remains unknown.

"Five cows were killed instantly, and two had to be put down for humanitarian reasons." Veterinarians are trying to save four other cows.

Later in the afternoon, two children, both brothers, were shot and killed by Israeli forces invading the al-Mughazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Even though it was still not possible to assess the physical damage to the cow shed, a kibbutz member said that "cows that are anxious eat less and produce less milk."

The two children were identified as Jihad Nabahen, 16, and his brother Ibrahim, 17.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Slippery Slope of Blame in Gaza

The blame game surrounding Gaza’s current political and social crisis is too unilateral and simplistic. In the public sphere responsibility for the instability of Gaza and the general Palestinian political malaise is placed either on Fatah’s corruption in leadership or on Hamas’ violent tendencies while seizing control of the Gaza Strip and during its consequent rule. Such a stance is feeding into the dichotomous derision of the rival Palestinian parties’ rhetoric. Both Hamas and Fatah must bare responsibility for their action and inaction. Meanwhile, unless the International Community pressures Israel to put an end to human rights abuses carried out against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank the milieu for any compromise between Hamas and Fatah remains unattainable.

In mid-June of this year Hamas carried out a military takeover of the Gaza Strip that, although ruthless and shocking to many Gazans, can be argued to have been justified in political terms. Fatah, the sole representative of the Palestinian people since taking the helm of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the late 60s had long gone too far; its time of reckoning had come.

After Arafat conceded to the recognition of Israel at Oslo, the PLO’s official framework shifted from one of Palestinian “liberation” through resistance to the acceptance of the status quo. It is hard to say if a dim glimmer of hope of ending the crisis or an uncontrollable desire for quick fix legitimacy caused the change of heart. What is certain is that the hope for any change of the conflict turned out to be nonexistent.

In exchange for the PLO’s transformation aid money poured in, a reward for consent or acquiescence. In a non-state some form of state institutionalization began to take place. Eventually this cash cow, requiring rare accountability, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Arafat and his compatriots transformed from leaders of a resistance to fat cats, became owners of fancy homes, factories and companies with the help of monies meant to relieve and somehow compensate Palestinian suffering. In the 70s Palestinian almost meant Fathawi. But over the course of the next 30 years disillusionment set in and the call for change grew increasingly.

While Fatah officials pocketed the cream of Palestinian aid, Hamas tended to the population’s growing needs and gained a following. Elections in early 2006 were the litmus test. To the world’s surprise, or so it seemed, Hamas, having finally entered the democratic process, ended up victorious in parliamentary elections. After forming a democratically elected government a test of another kind followed. The Palestinians had crossed the ‘democracy’ hurdle, a Western, modern requirement for a more integrated Middle East, yet the world would not recognize the results of the elections they had so vehemently called for. And here lies really the crux of the matter. It seems the inventors of a game can also change its rules, and the Palestinians have had to pay dearly for rejecting acquiescence, this time round to the evolving rules of democracy.

Following elections Fatah rejected entering into a coalition with Hamas. Instead they claimed that they would hand over the reigns of power, cede all responsibility to their rivals in order to reform their ailing party. Contrary to such statements, police, border guards and security forces remained under Fatah control. Further steps were taken to undermine the elected Hamas leadership.

Meanwhile with the boycott of the newly elected government donor funds were frozen, pulling the carpet out from beneath the Palestinian Authority structure. Government employees making up a third of Gaza’s workforce, who were largely Fatah affiliated, the party being the source of their paychecks, acted as a potentially defiant force against Hamas. Fatah continued to control the streets, prisons and borders, and more importantly quietly began covert efforts at organized chaos and violence in order to undermine Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip. The popular symbol of such efforts was Fatah activist Sameech Al-Madhoun, who lead an initiative to increase tension with Hamas in the Northern Gaza Strip by kidnapping and torturing its members and instigating a fierce rivalry. The brains of the operation was Mohamed Dahlan, a close advisor to Mahmoud Abbas and prior to June 14th the Fatah street’s future presidential hopeful.

June 10th marked a turning point; Hamas had had enough with policies to rid them of their legitimate control of Gaza. The so called Hamas takeover saw relatively limited blood shed, although accounts of torture were reported, they were not unlike those experienced by Hamas’ members throughout Fatah’s reign. Violence of this kind cannot be excused. Violence breeds violence and in this case it is the oppressive Israeli presence in the Palestinian midst for more than half a century that clearly served as its inspiration. Hamas’ political entitlement was mixed with an often blinding religious determination.

Hamas’ new-gained control changed the atmosphere of Gaza. Suddenly, it was safe to go out at night, no random assassinations took place, robberies were almost unheard of, Fatah and Hamas rivalries dissipated and inter-familial feuds began too be settled with words rather than weapons. The downside was the ever-increasing siege on Gaza, this entailed every sector, effecting every woman, man and child, both those celebrating their liberation from Fatah’s political failure and corruption and those living in fear of the new Hamas rulers. The one improvement lay in the fact that aid began pouring in to the new rather dubious and un-democratic government in the West Bank. Government employees swearing allegiance to this unrepresentative government receive their paycheck to this day under the condition they do not work. Within weeks of Hamas’ “liberation” of Gaza 65% of remaining local factories and businesses were forced shut because of the closure on vital imports. Chocolate wafers could not be manufactured without imported cocoa.

Bit by bit, the Gaza Strip has been bursting at the seams. When Fatah members decided to attend prayers beyond the confines of Hamas-run mosques they were brutally hindered by Hamas security. Fatah members, who uttered too fierce of criticisms during demonstrations in opposition of the overseeing Hamas security forces, were singled out and later confronted and often physically abused. Hamas cried wolf, pointing the finger at foul play by Fatah in the West Bank trying to disrupt the unity and peace of Gaza. On Sunday October 7th Rami Ayyad, director of a Christian bookstore was kidnapped and killed by unknown assailants. Promises were made but the gravity of the act was never addressed. Historically Gaza has demonstrated excellent Muslim-Christian relations; an apolitical Christian member of Gaza’s civil society had never before been kidnapped and murdered. Raji Sourani of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights told the Independent, "this ugly act has no support by any religious group here," in a sense echoing Hamas officials who again blamed outside forces seeking to strain Christian-Muslim relations in the Gaza Strip but taking no responsibility to tackle the growing malaise in their society.

In light of the gravity of Gaza’s situation there is much temptation to fall into a logically fallacious line of reasoning. The extent of Fatah’s corruption and misgovernment cannot justify the wrongdoings or incapability of Hamas, nor the undoing of Gaza’s society even when taking into account the vast odds placed against the ruling party.

The Hamas-Fatah blame game is in itself a slippery slope, which neglects the core of the issue. Gaza’s society has reached an unprecedented ethical valley. The kidnapping and killing of an innocent member of society would have been unacceptable and barely believable in Gaza just 20 years ago. Although Rami’s case is unique, today, sadly, political acts of violence for the sake of revenge are a common occurrence in Gaza. Is not this development really the heart of the matter? What has lead to the decay of a society, in recent history not much different than the communities along the Nile delta, the desert of Jordan or the coast of Syria? The disease of violence is a phenomenon widespread in Gaza today and rather than merely addressing the fruit and pointing the finger at the perpetrator of an act of violence, at the political party in control or vying for power, we must look beneath the surface at the social reality of the Gaza Strip. What can be expected of a 365km2 enclave with closed borders, insufficient resources to survive, a vibrant, growing population without enough work opportunities or future prospects of any sort? Has the world utterly lost its conscience or are we merely lead astray by an array of commentators with no grasp of history and a shallow either/ or capacity for reasoning?

Overarching political debates rarely take into account the common person whose reality it is addressing; the Hamas mother of seven who is not able to feed her children, The Fatah taxi driver beat down in his place of prayer, the wife of a murdered Palestinian Christian left in mourning. We must step out of the framework of political monologues and measure the wrongs carried out by all parties. Fatah’s critics need to also hold Hamas accountable for its shortcomings in Gaza despite the deep-rooted extent of Fatah’s wrongdoing.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Checking into Gaza

BBC: The growing Rift between Gaza and the West Bank


"The siege [by Israel] is affecting all aspects of life. You cannot find construction materials or spare parts for household goods or computers.

The cost of basic commodities, such as flour and rice has gone up between 15 and 45%. People are spending much less on meat, chicken and fish. The World Health Organization recently said 70% of schoolchildren are suffering from anaemia.

People who are on the Ramallah government payroll are being paid - except those affiliated to Hamas. [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniya is paying 17,000 people who are working with him.

But the private sector is collapsing, including the agricultural sector.

The rift between the two governments is deepening. Hamas is creating an entirely separate legal system here in Gaza.

They've established a higher justice council and have recruited 20 new prosecutors.

Hamas calls for dialogue in public, to cover the fact it is creating a parallel system in Gaza.

Once the separation of Gaza is complete, the blame will be put on Abbas and his people, because they are the ones publicly refusing to enter dialogue. "


"Economically, the situation is improving: Palestinian Authorities employees are being paid, shops are open.

Adli Das

People have more money to run a car, so there is more traffic on the streets.

National security troops are guarding all parts of Nablus city and people are feeling more secure. I think this is in response to the security Hamas imposed in Gaza, it was showing up Fatah in the West Bank.

Two militia men from Balata camp recently surrendered to police. A policeman has just told me they have retrieved about 60 automatic rifles from the camp and elsewhere in the last two days.

That's the good side of things. The bad side is that there are more than 500 Israeli military checkpoints across the West Bank.

If I want to reach my farm, which is in a village about 10 minutes away, I now have to drive for more than three hours to get there.

Politically, Hamas and Fatah are far apart. I can't see them negotiating with each other.

People say the US-sponsored conference [in November] is a photo opportunity for the Saudi and Israeli officials. I suspect it will be a waste of time."

read on

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gaza Documentary

Watch Journeyman's 10-minute report of the situation inside Gaza.

Rare footage with insight often missed in the news.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Alan Johnston tells of his kidnapping

It had begun out in the spring sunshine, on the streets of Gaza City. A saloon car had suddenly surged past mine, and then pulled up, forcing me to stop. A young man emerged from the passenger side and pointed a pistol at me. The figure with the pistol and another gunman forced me into their car, and as we sped off I was made to lie on the back seat. A hood had been shoved over my face, but through it I could see the sun flickering between the tower blocks. I could tell that we were heading south and east, towards the city’s rougher neighbourhoods.

Late on the first night of my captivity, the door opened. Its frame was filled by a tall figure in a long white robe. He stood for a moment, looking down at me – swathed in a red-chequered headdress that completely masked his face. The Jihadi leader had arrived. “Alan Johnston,” he said in English. “We know everything.”

Mostly the voice emerging from the mask was calm, and even kindly. He said that I would not be killed. That I would be treated well, in keeping with Islamic codes of conduct towards prisoners. Crucially, he said that I would eventually be allowed to leave. I asked when, but he just said, “when the time is right.”

Read on

An authentic telling of Rami's death

AFP- The kidnapping and killing of Rami Ayyad, manager of the Gaza Strip's only Christian bookstore, sent shudders through the Palestinian coastal enclave's tiny Christian community.

Spared by the summer's fierce factional clashes in which the Islamist Hamas movement seized power by routing their secular Fatah party rivals, Christians began to worry they too might be driven from the volatile coastal strip.

What scares them is a new generation of shadowy extremist movements that have crept from the rubble of a seven-year uprising, months of internal bloodletting and decades of conflict with Israel.

"We are not afraid of Hamas because as a government they are responsible for protecting people," Ayyad's brother Ramzi says. "We are afraid of those who are more extreme than Hamas."

Palestinian Christians number around 75,000 but there are only 2,500 -- most of them Greek Orthodox -- living in the Gaza Strip among nearly 1.5 million Muslims, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Gaza has no history of tensions between the two communities and Christians say they are bound to their Muslim neighbours by shared suffering.

But fears peaked on October 6 when Ayyad was kidnapped, tortured and shot dead, his body dumped in a field outside Gaza City. No one has claimed responsibility for the murder.

Ayyad ran a bookshop affiliated with the United Bible Societies, a worldwide organisation that tries to help people "receive the Word of God and see the true light in Jesus Christ", according to its website.

The shop -- the only Christian bookstore in Gaza -- was firebombed in April, and Ayyad's family members said he was threatened several times.

"Three months before Rami was killed a man came into the office," Ayyad's mother told AFP. "He said to Rami, 'What do think about converting to Islam?'"

"Rami said, 'If you convert to Christianity, I'll become a Muslim.' Then the man said, 'I know how to make you a Muslim'. It was a threat."

The Hamas-run government has vowed to find and punish Ayyad's killers, and senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar and former prime minister Ismail Haniya attended his wake, along with several of the family's Muslim neighbours.

But many Christians, frightened of the new extremist groups and desperate to escape the worsening economic situation in the Gaza Strip, are seeking to emigrate, sparking fears for the future of the community.

The beleaguered coastal strip has been largely cut off from the rest of the world since March 2006, when Hamas -- which Israel and the West consider a terrorist group -- emerged victorious in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Israel tightened the blockade after the Islamists, who refuse to recognise the Jewish state, seized complete control four months ago, cutting the territory off from all but vital goods and threatening further measures.

"Christians are isolated just like Muslims. They are scared just like Muslims," says Father Manuel Musallam, the head of Gaza's 200-strong Catholic community, his lips trembling with anger against Israel.

On a breezy Sunday morning around 50 people gathered in the Catholic Church of the Holy Family for a weekly mass.

In a rousing sermon, Musallam -- an ardent Palestinian nationalist from the West Bank who Israel has only allowed out of the Gaza Strip twice since he assumed his post in 1995 -- called on his weary flock to remain strong.

"The Church has always been under threat, and it has always endured. Rami was not the first martyr and in the life of the Church he will not be the last," he said, his soaring baritone voice echoing off the stone walls.

"To those who are scared, to those who want to flee Gaza, we must open our hearts, our doors, and our pockets... And we must always remember the sacrifice of Christ on the cross."

Many Christians defend Gaza's record.

"I hate discrimination, and here there is no discrimination between Christians and Muslims," Musa Saba says as he sits in the quiet courtyard of the Gaza City Young Men's Christian Association, playing dominos with friends.

The spry 81-year-old Greek Orthodox was one of the founding members of the association in 1952, two years before the Egyptian government, which then controlled the Gaza Strip, granted the land on which it now stands.

Today the YMCA provides a rare recreational haven for the residents of Gaza City. In the 1980s and 1990s Hamas held party elections here, and the vast majority of the young people who play on the outdoor courts are Muslims.

"There are very few Christians in Gaza but they live right next to us on our streets. They live exactly as we do, with the same habits, the same customs," says Ban al-Hussein, a Muslim university student sitting nearby.

But if their small numbers have helped the Christians better blend in among their Muslim neighbours, it has also given rise to rivalries between different denominations.

Many in the Catholic and Orthodox communities believe Ayyad and his book store were targeted, not for being Christian, but because they were carrying out missionary activities aimed at Christians and Muslims alike.

"There are many different armed groups in the Gaza Strip, but they are not interested in fighting Christians. What happened (to Ayyad) was an exception, because of the silliness of the Baptists," Saba says.

But Hanna Massad, the pastor of Gaza City's main Baptist Church, insists the Bible Society in Gaza is primarily focused on charity, providing aid to Christians and Muslims, and offering free courses in computers and English.

"Here in Gaza, if someone wants to buy a Bible he can. If they ask for one we will provide it. But we don't force books on anyone and we don't try to convert people," Massad says.

Massad, like others, blames Ayyad's death on the rise of extremist groups bourne by the chaos in Gaza and the rest of the region in recent years.

"The extremist groups have started to appear in the last six years because of the political atmosphere in the Middle East and because of the economic blockade of our country," he says.

As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, with Israel declaring it a "hostile entity" last month and hinting at launching a major operation, Christians and Muslims are, together, preparing for the worst.

"After (Rami's murder) 70 percent of Christians want to leave Gaza, because they are very afraid," Ramzi says. "But we love Gaza, it's our country, we have roots here, homes here. We will not know anyone if we go somewhere else."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This Broke me Today

Written by my dear friend Yassmine in Rafah. Read more on her blog.

Five-month’s old Eyad is one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met. Barley touch his cheeks and he smiles, tickle his little belly and he bursts out in laughter, kicking his feet in the air. He’s also really quiet when he’s alone. He just lies there, and quiets plays with his hands and feet. He doesn’t cry like other babies. But get anywhere near him, and he sees you, he starts to laugh and kick his feet up in the air with excitement so you can play with him. His mother, Jamalat, says his laughter is a blessing from God as it takes away some of her sorrow and fills her heart instead with joy.

Eyad has never met his father, and his father has never seen him. Jamalat was 5-weeks pregnant with Eyad when his father, my cousin, was killed by an Israeli sniper during an incursion in Sufa. He had just told Jamalat to prepare some tea and took his then two-year old daughter, Malak and sat in front of his house. The sniper had every intention of killing him, not injure or disable him, for he didn’t shot him once or twice or in the leg or arm but he shot him three times; in his stomach, his chest and his neck. He would have died from his stomach wound, but was shot again in his chest. He fell to the ground and laid there, half alive, but mostly dead, hanging between life and death as he looked at his daughter. And then came the final shot to his neck, which eliminated any ounce of life left in him. Jamlat was used to the sound of gunshots, so she didn’t think to check on where or whom had been shot, until Malak ran over to her crying with her father’s blood all over her face and clothes.

Ironically, he was shot from his uncle’s house, just 50 meters away. The house was raided the night before, and transformed into a military site. The sniper was on the roof when he shot my cousin. This is how Israel legally and quietly harasses Gazans. They come in quietly from the border, whether its Sufa or Biet Hanoun or Khan Younis, and raid a house. They cut off all the phone lines and the electricity and lock the house residents into a room, declaring the house a military site. For the next day or so, they assess the area, and quietly plan. No one else in the neighborhood knows that the IDF has taken over that house, and it could be days before they leave. They come to arrest or kill so called militants, and raze trees and demolish homes of so called militant supporters. They then leave quietly, pulling back their tanks and bulldozers from Gaza, and sit at the Israeli-Gaza border until they decide on the next incursion.

Jamalat says God has taken away her husband away from her, only to give Eyad the same face. Eyad is an exact image of his father. He was also given his name.

It’s hard to laugh with Eyad laugh without having your heart-broken. He has no idea the world he will grow up in. He’ll grow up with only stories and pictures of his father. He’ll see his mother struggle to feed him and siblings. He’ll be told he’s refugee, and get used to waiting in line with his mom for their food packages. He’ll learn to sleep with the sounds of Israeli planes over his head. He’ll recognize the sounds of tanks coming into his neighborhood and that’ll be his que to run home. Anger will fill his heart when he sees Israeli’ bulldozers raze and break his father’s olive trees. And he’ll live under Israeli occupation, in an unjust world, where he will think its normal to live in such conditions, and there is no other alternative.

He’ll never know or see the face of the Israeli solider that killed his father, or receive reparations for the life he will live. And the Israeli solider will never realize what he has done or who he has hurt. He never thought for a second before he shot those three shots that the man he was shooting was someone’s father, and was loved by his wife and had just invited his neighbors for tea to celebrate Jamalat’s pregnancy before sitting in front of his door to greet them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ghosts of Gaza

JABALYA, Gaza Strip, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Officially, Mahmoud Jnaid does not exist. The 25-year-old Palestinian almost made that a reality earlier this month when he doused himself with petrol and tried to set himself alight.

Jnaid is one of about 54,000 displaced Palestinians who returned to Gaza and the West Bank from abroad after an interim peace accord in 1993, but still have no identity cards because Israel refuses to approve them. Following years of silence, they recently started holding weekly protests in Hamas-run Gaza to demand the documents, which they need to travel as well as for daily basics like opening a bank account or getting a driving licence.

"I am Mr Nobody," said Jnaid, who, at one of the protests, doused himself in petrol and tried to set himself alight before onlookers overpowered him.

"When I poured the petrol on my body I felt life was the same as death," he said as he sat next to his wife and children.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Four dead in Fatah-Hamas clashes

AFP- Four Palestinians were killed overnight in the deadlist bout of infighting between Fatah and Hamas loyalists since the Islamist movement captured the Gaza Strip in mid-June, medics said Thursday.

Paramilitaries in Hamas's self-styled police Executive Force armed with anti-tank missiles exchanged fire with members of a powerful Gaza clan, the majority of which supports political rivals Fatah, witnesses said.

Trouble broke out in Gaza City when the Executive Force stopped a Palestinian Authority vehicle carrying former police officer Adel Hellis.

Three Hellis relatives and an Executive Force officer were subsequently killed, said an official at the Hamas-run health ministry, Maawia Hassanin.

Another 30 people were wounded, including one critically, said medical officials, revising up an earlier toll of three dead and 22 wounded.

Witnesses said the Executive Force blew up Adel Hellis' home but that the former police officer, who stopped work after Hamas routed Fatah in a bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip four months ago, was not hurt.

The clashes lasted about eight hours but ended before daybreak under a truce mediated by armed group, the Popular Resistance Committees.

Most of the Hellis clan are loyal to Fatah, the secular political party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. Its loyalists were routed by Hamas in the mid-June take over following months of political rivalry and sporadic violence.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Welcoming Eid in Gaza

An isolated Gaza Strip marked its first Eid al-Fitr on Friday since Hamas wrested control in a bloody takeover as the Islamists warned against Palestinian concessions at an upcoming US summit.

Scores of Palestinians were killed earlier this year in clashes between the hardline Islamist movement and their moderate secular Fatah rivals before Hamas seized complete control of the impoverished territory in June.

Addressing a packed football stadium in the heart of Gaza City, the head of the sacked Hamas government urged Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas not to give in to Israeli demands at a US-sponsored meeting expected next month...

Monday, October 8, 2007

My friend Rami was killed

The last time I saw Rami we were at the beach near Gaza City. A group of us were in the water and I was trying to force Rami under water. Rami was a big man, weighing at least twice what I do, needless to say, I did not manage to get him to budge. When he in turn came after me all I could do to protect myself from suffocating under him was flee. Eventually I was able to sneak up on him under water and pull his legs out from under him and then escape again.

There are around 3000 Christians living in Gaza today. Rami was the office director of the Teacher’s bookstore, a Christian bookstore in downtown Gaza City. The store sells Christian books and offers computer and language lessons, which are attended by Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip. When I would visit the place on occasion Rami was always there on his swivel chair cracking jokes. Few people entered that did not already know him. Gaza can be a place of sadness, Rami always reminded me much more of the mentality of Egyptians laughing and joking no matter how depressing life becomes.

On Saturday afternoon Rami closed his shop as he always did at 4:30. He had told his brother that three days earlier he had sensed he was being followed home after work but had not made much of it. Two hours after closing up he called his wife and told her with much uncertainty that he hoped to be home in two hours and not to worry. He was not able to say where he was or why he was there. Rami never came home. Friends and family searched for him until late into the night. At 5:30am on Sunday morning his body was found beaten, a bullet through his head, another through his chest. His wallet, ID and watch were gone.

No one has made any statements, no group has taken responsibility. This is the first time in Gaza’s recent history for a Christian to be kidnapped and killed. Sadly, such incidents do occur in revenge killings usually of political nature but never with religious causes. In Gaza, Muslims and Christians live and die side by side, sharing every element of the Israeli occupation and containment that has been a reality there since most people alive today remember. Rami had no political or factional involvement, nor was his family implicated in any family feuds. Rami’s boss was quoted in the Independent saying "We don't know who was behind the killing or why. Was it for money, or was it because he was selling Bibles?"

The heart of the matter is the fact that Gaza is a place overrun with violence. Readers of this blog have followed the complexities of the makeup of Gaza’s social and political makeup, I will not repeat again what I have so often before. Violence here has deep roots in injustice and occupation, but beyond this every individual, every political grouping, every community makes the choice of projecting their experience outward and returning violence for violence. Gaza is deeply entrenched in violence. In Gaza victims of bloodshed often themselves become shedders of blood. Rami experienced the harshness of occupation, the limitation of curfews, Israeli military incursions, civilian targeted sonic booms, restrictions on travel beyond the 365km2 confines of the Gaza Strip and the strife of civil war.

Rami chose to respond to violence with laughter, love and peace. The strength to live such a life is what I hope for Rami’s killers, it is what I hope for every Palestinian living and born into the living hell of Gaza today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hamas spokesman Hamad calls for Palestinian Reconciliation

Increasing division has been part and partial of the Palestinian street ever since parliamentary elections held there January of 2006. This social fragmentation came to a head in the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid June. The division has been played out in increasingly critical media coverage by both Hamas and Fatah of the other parties actions and policies. Hamas member and spokesman of the deposed government Ghazi Hamad Sunday called for efforts to bridge this growing divide.

"The Palestinian arena witnesses an unprecedented state of division domestically, and the beginning of a dangerous phenomenon, which threatens to demolish the social tissue and the political future of the Palestinian people, leading them away from their ambitions for liberty and independence. This was the result of the dominance of the culture of partiality, in light of the absence of cooperation and mutual respect which can guarantee development.

There have developed recently dangerous behaviour and practices in Palestinian society, leading to more division through fuelling the inclination to narrow-mindedness and extremism, in addition to intolerance. The language of agreement has been replaced with one of spitefulness, which widened the gap and increased the tension.

This education of partiality and anarchism, and the use of force and violence to deal with any domestic troubles threaten the emergence of very dangerous repercussions in the Palestinian ability to counter the occupation or to maintain the steadfastness and strength of the Palestinian society.

If this situation continues, occupation will have the opportunity to achieve its goals and fuel more division in Palestinian society. On the other hand, the Palestinians will lose their spirit, and their nationalist dedication will also weaken as antagonism and division will prevail. The image of the Palestinians in the world will also be distorted and they will lose much of the solidarity and support they have achieved over the years of struggle against occupation.

It has become urgent more than ever to devote all the true and faithful Palestinian efforts to fight the state of division in Palestinian society as that is much more important than any political solutions or suggestions."

At Rafah: Hamas- Al-Quaeda trade

According to Palestinian news service Ma'an reported the following incident Sunday.

"A secret deal was struck between Hamas and the Egyptian intelligence to allow 85 people stranded for 4 months on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing to enter the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources told Ma'an on Monday.

The majority of those who crossed the border under the deal were Hamas political and military leaders, according to the sources.

Under the deal an Al-Qaeda leader hiding in Gaza, who was accused of being involved in attacks on tourists in the southern Egyptian city of Assiut, was handed over to the Egyptians."

This is a
significant incident that communicates in action rather than merely in word the clear distinction that exist between Hamas and Al-Quaeda. The exchange also points to the careful relationship Egypt's governing regime is walking in regards their relationship with Hamas. Although their security representatives left the Gaza Strip in mid-June, dialogue remains ongoing.

A Haaretz Report added these details,

"Egypt's Interior Ministry confirmed that they had agreed with Hamas to transport the people across the border. It gave no explanation.

Israel, which opposed the return of some of the Palestinians, said it was unaware of an Egypt-Hamas agreement. Egypt told Israel that about 28 Palestinians, including senior Hamas figures, broke through the Egypt-Gaza fence, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.

But the crossing appeared to be organized with Egyptian cooperation, witnesses said.
The Palestinians were transported to the Egyptian side of the border in Egyptian buses, allowed across by Hamas security and then met at a Hamas security in included a prominent Hamas lawmaker, Mushir al-Masri, and Hamas loyalists sent for training in Muslim countries before the militant Islamic group's Gaza takeover, witnesses said.

They did not speak to journalists at the scene.
During the crossing, Hamas security officials tried to keep the operation a secret, confiscating film from photographers and cameramen alerted to the scene."

Friday, September 21, 2007

JPost: Israel seeks again to rid itself of Gaza

This report from the Jerusalem Post points to two things. First, Israel's continued attempt to wash its hands of the chaos of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, what justifies Israel internationally even to such a statement is the Hamas takeover there in mid-June. Thus, second, as this blog has posited in the past, Israeli dreams have actually been vastly aided by the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Today this becomes even more evident.

"A day after the cabinet defined the Gaza Strip as "hostile territory," The Jerusalem Post learned Thursday that the IDF is working on a proposal that calls for a "complete disengagement" from the Gaza Strip - involving the closure of all border crossings with Israel and the transfer of all responsibility over the Palestinian territory to Egypt.

The proposal, defense officials said, was recently raised by Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky during a series of meetings within the defense establishment.

While Israel removed its military positions and settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it has maintained a certain level of responsibility for the Palestinian population there, including coordinating the Gaza-based activities of humanitarian organizations such as UNRWA, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to the proposal, which officials stressed was in its early stages, Israel would completely disconnect from Gaza by closing off the Erez, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings and instead directing humanitarian organizations to work with Egypt."

UN: warning to Israel over Gaza

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yousef Krauss- A dreary Ramadan descends on Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP) — On a normal Ramadan evening Kazem's ice cream shop in Gaza City would be packed, with a mob of people pressing towards the counter and cars jamming the street outside.

But on the first weekend of this year's Muslim holy month no more than a dozen people were waiting and the street in front was clear. Weary Gazans had broken the fast, said their final daily prayers and decided to stay indoors.

"Because of all the problems between Fatah and Hamas the people are at home, afraid," said Faris Kafarna, 25, as he walked past Kazem's on his way home.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fatah Plants Bomb in Gaza

AZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas forces on Sunday said they discovered a bomb next the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City and accused the rival Fatah movement of planting the device.

Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas' paramilitary Executive Force, said the 33-pound bomb was defused after it was discovered at about 5 a.m.

"It's a dangerous escalation," he said. "We believe that some elements in Fatah, based in Ramallah, are behind this and other attacks," he said. No arrests were made.

And this, within the Animal Farm,

Raji Sourani, PCHR Director, told a 7-member British parliamentary delegation visiting the Center’s office in Gaza that Israel’s policy of hermetic closure of Gaza allowing only food in has transformed Gaza’s 365 square kilometer area into an animal farm. He added that this closure transforms 1.6 million people in Gaza into a nation of beggars by only allowing food products to enter. Sourani stated that the US and Europe are parties to the crime against the Gaza Strip and its population by their consent and silence towards this policy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fatah General Strike hits Gaza

A PLO called for strike was carried out in Gaza, where shops, businesses and schools were closed in response to heavy handed Hamas crack downs on Fatah organized prayers on Friday.

This from Aljazeera,

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fatah Warlord, Dahlan returns

Former Fatah strongman Mohamed Dahlan, speaking at a London conference, stated that Hamas had made "a strategic and historic mistake" in their takeover of Gaza. He made bold claims concerning a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians referencing his comeback in the Palestinian political scene, "I am quite convinced that the solution I am hoping for will succeed by 70 percent."

As he himself pointed out ("I am a person detested by Hamas, to my honor,"), Dahlan was already a detested figure in the Islamic movement's camp prior to the Hamas takeover in Gaza and yet after Hamas took power, he was possibly hated even more by his own Fatah supporters for his poor showing during Hamas' military routing of Fatah forces in Gaza in mid June. With strong outside support, which he seems to have, Dahlan would be able to prevail over even these seemingly impossible odds.

Meanwhile Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has for the first time made a committed statement to return to the negotiating table with Hamas by promising to re-activate a power sharing deal with his political rivals if the latter cede power in Gaza.

He went on to say,
"the Mecca agreement... is still a valid way out of the tense situation in the Palestinian territories, on condition that the situation in Gaza returns to what it was."

Abbas furthermore called for the Saudi backed Arab Peace Initiative to be considered part of the Mecca Agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
Egypt for its part has already condemned to failure the US proposed November Peace Talks.

Dahlan backed such predictions,

"I find that the prevailing atmosphere is not conducive to a breakthrough at this conference... I sincerely hope I'm mistaken because the opportunity is a historic one."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Between Baghdad and Gaza

This is the story of a friend. I do not use his real name.
This is the plight of being Palestinian, stateless.

The 4km stretch of land was squalid, with no water, no food and nowhere to take shelter. The strip of land truly did justice to its name, No Man’s Land. Roughly 400 refugees were located there with no way of returning where they had come from, the hell of Iraq, and without permission to continue on to the police state of Syria. The people that inhabited this No Man’s Land were paperless and stateless.

The border between Iraq and Syria was the only space on earth where Karim was given permission to exist. It was July when Karim arrived at the border, escaping a death threat and having left his family and all that he knew behind, he was making an attempt at reaching his mother’s homeland that he had never visited, Syria. During those four months, with the sun beating down on the hundreds of people stuck there, the most immediate concern was a mere drink of water. Karim’s only travel document was a Palestinian passport issued by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, but never acknowledged by Israel who holds the official registry of all Palestinians within the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians residing outside of these areas have no “right of return” while Europeans, Americans, Russians, Ethiopians… really anyone who could trace their family origins back to the Jewish people was given access and legal rights to live, work and die in Israel, the land of historic Palestine.

Four months after arriving at the border, on November 8th, Karim’s mother picked him up, driving him to their new temporary home on the outskirts of Damascus. His skin was like leather she said as every drop of water he was able to find during those months was barely enough for drinking. Karim’s teeth had begun to decay. After months of trying Karim’s family was able to receive a letter from a Syrian government official giving Karim permission to enter Syria but without residency. At any moment he could be deported to the very place he had come from. Syria had given him temporary permission to become an illegal refugee in the police state.

In 1994 Karim’s father, Abu Karim, had chosen not to take on the Iraqi citizenship in the hope of one day returning to a state of Palestine still to be established. Abu Karim was Palestinian, from the Gaza Strip’s city of Deer Al-Balach where his family had fled from Beer Sheva in 1948 today located in Israel. Abu Karim was one of those ambitious Palestinians that despite the odds fought his way into university in Gaza and then continued his higher education in engineering in the UK. When he took on a job with General Electric in Baghdad he settled there with his family.

Karim was raised in an upper class neighborhood of Baghdad, his brother called it, the “Hollywood of Baghdad”. There he described to me a life wholly unimaginable to one who had grown accustomed to the media’s bloody reports of the city. Karim described today’s city of anarchy as the playground of his youth. There, he drove fast motorcycles through the streets and along with his brother was known as a little trouble maker at school. All this was to change with the international community’s siege on Iraq in the early 90s following the first Iraq war. By this time Abu Karim was running Iraq’s biggest import-export company. It was the people of Iraq who suffered most from the siege. At that time Karim’s life was affected dramatically, but it was the war in 2003 that changed everything.

The US lead invasion transformed the way of life in Iraq. It was for one of the US soldiers roaming the streets of Baghdad that Karim translated in a shop one day. Abu Karim had raised his children speaking English, he himself knowing seven languages. After the short encounter in the shop the soldier asked Karim to translate for the army and Karim agreed. But upon interrogation and the US officials realizing Karim did not have Iraqi citizenship, they imprisoned him in order to investigate his status in Iraq. Within seven days he was cleared and yet it was not until eleven months later that Karim was released by the Americans having passed through some of the worst US run prisons in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein, much like the Assads, the neighboring Arab dictators in Syria, was gaining political capital by officially taking the Palestinians under his wing. It was well known in the West Bank and Gaza that the Ba’ath party sent monies to family’s whose members had died as “martyrs”, especially in attacks on Israeli army outposts. Yet, within Iraq this was largely for show and Palestinians though given a space to live in Iraq, a packed refugee camp not unlike those within the Palestinian areas, remained a stateless people at the mercy of a foreign Arab tyrant. Karim had excelled in a private school for advanced students and one day Saddam Hussein had come to visit the academy that was named after him. Upon his discovery that the top 17 students were Palestinians he had all Palestinians dismissed from the school the following day. Karim had been the first in his class and early on experienced the racism of living without rights.

Yet, it was the perception that Saddam made the Palestinians his spoiled favorite minority that brought on them the wrath of Shiite militias that sought revenge on anything connected to the legacy of the man who had suppressed, tortured and killed thousands of Shiites during his reign.

Karim’s family left their neighborhood a ghost town, partially occupied by militias but devoid of anything resembling the life that had not so long ago existed there. Even deeper tragedy struck when Karim lost his father in July.

Abu Karim had remained in Baghdad after the rest of his family had fled to Syria. There he was captured by a Shiite militia. He was tortured and upon release Abu Karim was able to travel to Syria and underwent an emergency operation to amputate his leg to try and prevent the gangrene from reaching the rest of his body. He lost the race against time. One week later Abu Karim died as the virus reached throughout his body.

Abu Karim was a wise man with deep love for his family. With the civil war looming in Iraq he had told his son Karim never to be overcome by a desire for revenge. Revenge, he taught, was an animal instinct that needed to be rooted out of humans. Karim today seeks no revenge on his father’s killers.

Karim is a prisoner in this world, only temporarily escaping the cell of No Man’s Land he has been sentenced to. Karim is fatherless and homeless as a result of war, as a result of occupation, as a result of injustice.

Iran: Palestinian Reconciliation; Israel: Palestinian Division

Some absurdities are taking place in the happy Western world balance of Good ("the West"...oddly enough including War ally Australia) and Evil (the so-called "Middle East" "/" "Islamic World"). It is one of the members of the famed "Axis of Evil" (North Korea by the way has just asked to be excused from this list) Iran, who is hosting reconciliation talks between the various factions.

The Algerian ambassador in Cairo for his part has also called for a "fact-finding committee on Hamas' takeover Gaza Strip to become a reconciliation committee between the Palestinians."

Just a few weeks ago Palestinian premier had seemed to soften his hard line stance towards Hamas when he called for a
"return to national unity."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office responded by stating that any Fatah-Hamas unification would cause "a breakdown of the diplomatic process", Abbas they said was "well aware" of their position. Israel seems to be quite fond of this (convenient) division.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

JPost: Fatah "Intifada" vs. Hamas

The Jerusalem Post can finally appease its readers by writing of an "intifada" that has broken out between Palestinian factions in Gaza. Monday morning a second Hamas vehicle was blown up by unidentified Fatah members. As someone in Jerusalem once told me, the Israelis have never had it better, the Palestinians are attacking and killing each other and for the most part are leaving Israel alone. As I have been trying to point out for the past many months the story goes much deeper than Palestinian "Extremist Muslims" hate and kill "Secular Nationalists" and vice versa.

Division has very often been the strategy to control a people, especially when the occupied population is
bigger than the occupying power. One has to look past what the media is telling in its most common platforms in order to see that this is also the case in the Gaza Strip. In no way does this excuse either members of Fatah or Hamas of the actions they are perpetrating, but one always must look beneath the surface for the root of disease. Violence is no natural state of being.

This is the Jerusalem Post's superficial perspective of what takes place in Gaza, by using the Palestinians' own language of "intifada' they are demonizing their Palestinian neighbors and solidifying their place in the annals if history as a self-destructive people that are not to be trusted, who are naturally inclined to such inter-fighting.

"There are increasing indications that Fatah is trying to organize an intifada against Hamas, as Fatah members in the Gaza Strip try to snap out of what one commander termed a state of "depression" following their defeat at the hands of Hamas in June...

Fatah officials expressed deep satisfaction with the anti-Hamas demonstrations...

Hamas leaders said they did not rule out the possibility that Fatah members would resort to an "armed struggle" against the Islamist movement.

They added that there was growing evidence that Fatah was preparing for armed attacks on Hamas figures and institutions. They also noted that over the weekend Hamas militiamen discovered a weapons factory inside the house of a former Fatah security commander in the Strip."

Aljazeera provided this report of a Hamas cartoon that is communicating to Gaza's children this deepest of divides between the two factions. A division driven by external forces and kindled by conditions that bring us back to a mentality of survival of the fittest.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

First Fatah attack on Hamas since takeover; Hamas breaks up prayers

The DPA and local news sources reported the first Fatah violent attack of revenge on Hamas since the Hamas takeover June 14,

"An explosion in southern Gaza city on Saturday ripped through the car of a member of the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas movement, which has been running the enclave since June, Hamas sources said.

The sources said the blast has completely destroyed the vehicle which was parked in front of the home of the owner, whom the sources did not identify.

The incident took place following a day of clashes between the Hamas police force and supporters of rival Fatah movement whom Hamas drove from power on June 14.

Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, started to hold weekly Friday prayers outside mosques, protesting Hamas incitement against them."

Few journalists are able to film the events that are taking place in Gaza without permission from Hamas; here are some images that were captured. Depicted is Hamas security members detaining Fatah members who on Friday gathered to worship in a downtown square in Gaza City because they do not feel welcome within Hamas-run mosques.

On August 27th, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights provided the following report of Hamas detentions of Fatah members.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, on Saturday morning, 25 August 2007, the Executive Force arrested 15 residents of al-Daraj neighborhood in the east of Gaza City to interrogate them about their participation in the prayer conducted in the Unknown Soldier Yard in Gaza City on the preceding day, and the demonstration that followed. Fatah movement had called for doing the Friday Prayer in the Unknown Solider Yard, in protest to what it described as “the incitement and politicization of religious preaches at mosques.” According to a number of released detainees, they were beaten and humiliated during their detention at al-Saraya security compound. They were also forced to sign a document pledging not to participate in any activities organized by Fatah movement and not to give any information to the media, and if they break this pledge, they must pay 3,000 JD (approximately US$ 4,285).

In the same context, the Executive Force arrested 3 residents of the same neighborhood on Sunday morning, 26 August 2007. They were also beaten, humiliated and forced to sign the same pledge.

In his testimony to PCHR, one of the released detainees stated:

“At approximately 04:15 on Saturday, 25 August 2007, many members of the Executive Force broke into the yard of our house and arrested my brother who got out to check what was going on. They then ordered me and my other brothers to get out. As soon as I got out, they handcuffed, blindfolded and violently beat me. They placed me in a jeep and then transported me to al-Saraya compound. During our way to al-Saraya compound, they continued to beat me. I sustained fractures to my left hand and upper jaw. In al-Saraya security compound, they interrogated me about my participation in the Friday prayer and the demonstration that followed. During the interrogation, they beat and insulted me. They then forced me to sign a document pledging not to participate in demonstrations and activities organized by Fatah movement and not to talk to the media, and if I violate this pledge, I must pay 3,000 JD. They released me and my brothers at approximately 09:00 on the same day.”