Showing posts with label Palestinian Territories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palestinian Territories. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

GAZA: shroud of despair descends on Christian community


By Elizabeth Kendal

Local Christians in the Gaza Strip claim that two members of their community, Ramez al-Amash (24) and Hiba Abu Dawoud (32), were kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam.

According to Gaza's Greek Orthodox Archbishop Alexious, when Ramez al-Amash disappeared his parents filed a police complaint, but the police ignored it after learning that the mastermind behind the alleged kidnapping was a senior cleric identified with Hamas. Christians are blaming Salem Salama, chairman of the Palestine Scholars Association. 

Hamas officials, however, tell a different story. They claim Ramez al-Amash and Hiba Abu Dawoud converted of their own free will.

Ramez and Hiba's families are absolutely adamant that they did not convert freely. "If my son is not kidnapped, why don't they just let him go home with me?" asked Huda Amash, mother of Ramez. “My son was brought up as a Christian. His love of Jesus is strong enough to keep him Christian.  He cannot change his beliefs all of a sudden."

Shortly after Hiba Abu Daoud disappeared, she sent a message to her husband's mobile phone informing him that she, along with their three daughters aged 12, 9 and 7yrs, had converted to Islam.

According to her now-estranged husband, Khaled Hilal, Hiba had complained during her university studies that her fellow students were constantly pressuring and hounding her about Islam and about why she should convert.

Hiba's mother also said that her daughter had been stalked by fellow employees at the Islamic University, who said she needed to become a Muslim. "My daughter lived in a struggle with them. She did not do this of her own choice."

So convinced are they that a terrible offence has been committed, dozens of local Christians risked life and liberty to protest what they see as a major threat to their vulnerable community. On Monday 16 July the distressed believers rang the bells at St Perfidious, Gaza's Greek Orthodox church, and cried out: "With our spirit, with our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Jesus."

Hamas officials subsequently had the "converts" appear on the Hamas-linked TV station where they "confessed" to having converted to Islam freely after long deliberations.  Hamas officials said the individuals had been staying with a Muslim religious official under police protection at their own request as they feared retribution from their families. However Ramez al-Amash professed great love for his family, saying he desired to be home with them again as soon as possible, while cautioning that his family must accept this conversion.  He returned home the next day (clearly not fearing for his life!).

Hiba Abu Daoud has also appeared in a video clip made by a pro-Hamas news website. Wearing a blue Muslim headscarf and a long loose black robe, Hiba says, "Nobody forced me. Through my studies in the college and university, I came to love the religion . . . I am very happy with this decision . . . We are living with a (Muslim) family, they bring us all we need, they teach us how to pray and everything . . .  I love you all, I hope no one feels upset with me, it was my decision which I made months ago."  Her three daughters were also shown on a pro-Hamas TV station cheerfully singing along to Islamic children's songs.

Hiba's aunt, Fatin Ayyad, claims her niece was speaking under duress. "We are increasingly worried about our sons and daughters. If those people joined Islam of their own will it would not have been a problem. But they were under pressure," she said.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights -- which is mediating between the families -- said in a statement Tuesday 24 July that the five people had met with their family members and affirmed that they had not been forced to convert.

Now technically divorced, Hiba Abu Daoud has met with her former husband, Hilal. They are in the process of working out visitation rights.

So who do we believe?

Some in the media have clearly accepted Hamas' version of events, presumably taking the "confessions" of the "converts" as confirmation.
e.g: Gaza Christians Fear For Future Of Tiny Community
By IBRAHIM BARZAK and DIAA HADID , 25 July 2012

But the reality is, forced conversion is not uncommon in Islam. It happens regularly in Pakistan and while it has been commonplace in Egypt for a long time, it has escalated since the "Arab Spring". According to activist Mark Ebeid, the escalation can be put down to the "emergence of Muslim Salafists who believe strongly that converting a Christian Infidel is in some ways like earning a ticket to paradise -- not to mention the earthly remuneration they get from the Saudis."

[For more on the forced Islamisation of Egyptian girls, see:
MINORITY AT RISK: COPTIC CHRISTIANS IN EGYPT
US Helsinki Commission hearing, 22 July 2011
In particularly, see the testimony of Jean Maher, President, French Office, Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization.]

It may well be significant that the "converts" hail from two "prominent" Christian families. It is also highly likely that, if indeed as informed observers may expect, the conversions have been coerced, then those who did the coercing doubtless also issued threats -- deadly threats that will ensure the "converts" never contradict the official Hamas line and never openly return to Christianity (at least not while they and their families are in the Middle East and cannot be protected). 

A shroud of despair descends on Christian community

"If things remain like this, there will be no Christians left in Gaza," said Huda Amash, the mother of Ramez al-Amash. "Today, it's Ramez. Who will be next?"

Archbishop Alexious is spearheading the protests against persecution of Christians and forced conversions. As would be expected, he has come under sharp criticism from many Palestinians and the Hamas government for daring to speak out about the plight of his community. The controversy has sent religious tensions soaring and many in the vulnerable Christian community fear reprisals from Islamic fundamentalists.

Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim remarked, "Such accusations [of forced conversions] lack credibility and push an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence towards tension, which does not serve the Palestinian people."

"We lived together for years in Gaza," said Elias, a government worker. "The sound of church bells ringing used to mix with the call of prayer from the mosque." But now, fearing for his children, Elias said he was looking for a way out. "I am thinking of leaving with my family," he said.

Though the Christians have appealed to the Vatican and Christian groups and churches in the US, Canada and Europe for help, they get the distinct impression that the world does not seem to care about their plight. "We only hear voices telling us to stay where we are and to stop making too much noise," said a Christian man living in Gaza City. "If they continue to turn a blind eye to our tragedy, in a few months there will be no Christians left in Palestine. Today it's happening in the Gaza Strip, tomorrow it will take place in Bethlehem."


Monday, April 5, 2010

The Myth of the "Black Widow"

Reporting from Moscow after the 29 March Moscow train bombings, Tony Halpin described the female suicide bombers, known as Black Widows, as women who martyr themselves to avenge the deaths of their loved ones.

"These women are willing," wrote Halpin, "even eager, to become martyrs, driven by a desire for revenge on Russia after witnessing the deaths of children, husbands or other relatives in the two Chechen wars of the 1990s."

The above description of the "Black Widow" is being parroted in virtually all Western media. Unfortunately, it reveals a shameful ignorance of the phenomenon. Even worse, it is an embarrassing and troubling wholesale adoption of one of the terrorist's primary weapons of asymmetric warfare -- propaganda.

It would be easy but tiresome to dig through the cases, read through the profiles, and disprove the myth. Thankfully, several strategic analysts have already done the footwork and written quite exhaustive reports on the subject.

Terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky has a chapter in his phenomenal book Chechen Jihad (HarperCollins 2007) devoted to "The Black Widows".

Bodansky writes concerning the jihad in Chechnya: "Conventional wisdom holds that this sudden and unprecedented upsurge in female terrorists [through 2003-2004] was the result of the horrific conditions created by the war in Chechnya. Having lost all, or virtually all, of their male relatives to the Russians, the logic went, these women had nothing left to live for; taking revenge against their tormentors was the only salve for their despair. Sympathetic European sociologists and psychologists studying the phenomenon concluded that the Widows were driven by despair born of extreme violence toward either the women or their families, and that their relative isolation left them feeling deprived of any perspective or alternative. According to this argument, the Islamists weren't responsible for motivating these young women into suicide -- only for providing them with an 'opportunity for sacrifice' and revenge."

"Yet," Bodansky continues, "this popular explanation is contradicted by the evidence in several ways."

As Bodansky notes, the first Chechen nationalist rebellion (1994-1996) produced more civilian casualties but no suicide bombers at all. The phenomenon of suicide bombers in Russia, including female suicide bombers, belongs exclusively to the second Chechen war (commencing 1999) which is an Islamic, not a nationalist, struggle.

Bodansky also notes that female suicide bombers defy stereotypes. Some have been poor while others have been middle class. Some have been raped and tortured by Russian soldiers while others have been raped and tortured by mujahedin. Some have been motivated by jihadist ideology while some have been simply depressed young women desperate for a way out.

According to Bodansky, in late 2002 Chechen commander Shamil Basayev commandeered a corps of Arab expert terrorists who had been trained in the Iraq war theatre to develop a training programme for would-be-martyrs in south-eastern Chechnya. In his book, Bodansky provides extensive detail of how networks have been run and how operations have been enacted.

Debra D. Zedalis makes the same observations in her 2004 report for the Strategic Studies Institute. Despite the exasperating political correctness of Zedalis's report -- entitled FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBERS -- it too notes that female suicide bombers (Palestinian and Chechen) defy simplistic definitions for some have been widows while others have never been married, and some were unemployed while others were professionals. She quotes Gregg Zoroya who says that there are "few differences between a man and a woman carrying out such a mission. It may be a surprise, but motivations are the same: they do believe, they are committed, they are patriotic, and this is combined with a religious duty."

Bodansky's profiling of three Chechen female suicide bombers reveals some tragic personal motivations.

(1) On 24 June 2003, Luiza Asmayeba (22) was wounded in a shootout with Russian police before she could detonate her device. Before she died she told the authorities that she had been repeatedly raped and impregnated by Chechen mujahedin and saw martyrdom as her only escape. An autopsy confirmed that Luiza was pregnant.

(2) Zulikhan Yelikhadzhiyeva (according to reports, an educated, cultured, modern girl) and her step brother Zhaga fell in love and ran away together. Zulikhan, however, was subsequently kidnapped by one of her half-brothers, a mujahed, who scolded her, telling her that her actions had brought shame on the family and condemned her to hell. He then convinced her that the only way she could restore the family's honour and secure her place in heaven with all the promised rewards and pleasures, was to become a martyr -- "a shakhida on the path of Allah" (according to a letter she wrote to Zhaga). Zulikhan blew herself up in the Wings concert attack of 5 July 2003.

(3) Zarema Muzhikhoyeva (23) surrendered to Russian police on 9 July 2003 after failing in her attempt to blow herself up in central Moscow. Her husband had been murdered in a business dispute. Her childless brother-in-law then took her daughter from her. After her relatives caught her trying to escape with her daughter, they beat her and said it would be better if she were dead. So Zarema went to meet Shamil Basayev (now deceased), who was at that time the commander of the Chechen mujahedin. He promised her, that if she were to become a martyr, he would give her family enough money to raise her daughter. And so Zarema offered herself as a suicide bomber.

Official sanction

This appalling exploitation of vulnerable, grieving and abused young women is sanctioned at the highest levels of Islam for the sake of mass murder. Zedalis's report for the Strategic Studies Institute provides excellent insight here.

According to Zedalis, Islamic leaders' attitudes have changed over time as women suicide bombers proved their worth as highly strategic tactical weapons. Zedalis notes that in early 2002, after Fatah started using female suicide bombers, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (now deceased), who was at the time the spiritual leader of Hamas, categorically renounced the use of women as suicide bombers for reasons of modesty. However, in January 2004 after the first Hamas female suicide bomber struck, Sheikh Yassin supported the act saying it was a "significant evolution in our fight. The male fighters face many obstacles. Women are like the reserve army -- when there is a necessity, we use them."

Zedalis also notes: "Saudia Arabia originally refused to legitimize female suicide bombings as martyrdom; however, in August 2001, the High Islamic Council in Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa encouraging Palestinian women to become suicide bombers."

Also: "Lebanese Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah declared, 'It is true that Islam has not asked women to carry out jihad (holy war), but it permits them to take part if the necessities dictate that women should carry out regular military operations or suicide operations."

Zedalis concludes that: "Terrorist organizations use women as weapons because they provide:
• Tactical advantage: stealthier attack, element of surprise, hesitancy to search women, female stereotype (e.g., nonviolent).
• Increased number of combatants.
• Increased publicity (greater publicity = larger number of recruits).
• Psychological effect." [Embarrassing the enemy as much as shocking the public.]

Zedalis quotes one commander in charge of training future suicide bombers as saying, "The body has become our most potent weapon. When we searched for new ways to resist the security complications facing us, we discovered that our women could be an advantage." And another who boastfully described the Palestinian female suicide bomber as the "Palestinian human precision bomb".

"Finally," writes Zedalis most ominously, "many organizations deliberately are targeting women for strategic purposes because female suicide bombers receive more media attention. Research has shown that 'public perceptions of the level of terrorism in the world appear to be determined not by the level of violence, but rather by the quality of the incidents, the location, and the degree of media coverage.' So the media provides both an advertising and recruitment tool for terrorist groups. Analysts noted that, when the first Palestinian female bombing occurred, the 'news was given great prominence . . . far more than any male suicide bomber would have received. Women who kill or threaten to kill are hot news. It is a reaction that knows no state or religious boundaries.'"

Furthermore, it is quite ridiculous and even sexist to insist that men kill for ideology while women only kill for love. Women kill for a whole lot of reasons, including ideology and reward, especially when the reward involves assurance of salvation with pleasures in heaven, material reward for family on earth, and fame and glory -- for suicide bombers are heroes in Palestinian society. Their faces adorn the streets, while sport grounds, schools and community centres are named in their honour.

(See also: Female Suicide Bombers: Dying for Equality?
Edited by Yoram Schweitzer. Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, August 2006)

Justice demands truth

The propaganda surrounding the Black Widow myth ensures that neither the jihadists nor their ideology are never held accountable. The myth clearly serves its purpose as a means of Islamist propaganda, encouraging us to direct our anger at Israel and Russia, when we should be directing abhorrence, disgust and indignation at the mujahedin who exploit and abuse these vulnerable young women, and the esteemed dictators of Islam who sanction such inhumanity.

"Black Widows" -- or as they should be known: female suicide bombers -- are victims indeed, but not of Israeli or Russian aggression. They are victims of disgusting and inhumane Islamic deception and exploitation. If anything exposes the gulf between Islam and Biblical faith it is this! For the God of the Bible commands: "You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child." (Exodus 22:22 ESV) AND "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27 ESV)

God exhorts his people through his prophet Isaiah to "plead the widow's cause" (Isaiah 1:17 ESV), and so we must reject the myth of the Black Widow and hold the dictators of Islam and their minions accountable for their murderous terrorism and for their appalling abuse and exploitation of the vulnerable. Furthermore, it can be guaranteed that when the strategic, tactical and shock value of female suicide bombers wears off, children will be next. Indeed, vulnerable children are already being exploited and "sacrificed" for their propaganda value in both the Palestinian and Chechen theatres.

by Elizabeth Kendal

For background on the Chechen Jihad see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB 030) 11 Nov 2009
NORTH CAUCASUS (southern Russia): Church Struggles Amidst Terror

Friday, March 19, 2010

Palestinian leadership incite terror as 2000 Fatah allegedly defect to Hezballah (with update below)

The Palestinian leadership have been busy inciting terror both directly: by calling for a "day of rage"; and indirectly: by publicly honouring a terrorist. Considering the degree to which this is normative, it is little wonder that so many Sunni Palestinians are finding themselves attracted to the overtly belligerent, terrorist, Shi'ite Hezballah.

Direct incitement

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) reports: "On March 16, 2010, the Palestinian leadership — Fatah as well as Hamas — called for a 'day of rage,' inciting their followers to riot after the dedication of the newly rebuilt Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. The synagogue had been destroyed in 1948 when Jordan seized the Jewish Quarter and expelled its residents. Following the historical pattern of their predecessors, the Palestinian leaders called for jihad in defense of Muslim holy sites, falsely claiming that the opening of the synagogue was the first step in Israel's plan to take over or destroy the Al Aqsa mosque."

CAMERA decries not only Palestinian lies, incitement and rioting, but the media's general willingness to overlook and/or excuse Palestinian lies, incitement and rioting, and blame Israel for allegedly pushing the Palestinians "over the edge".

Hezballah, of course, wasted no time in pledging solidarity with the rioters.
See Iran's PressTV 17 March.

Indirect incitement

As CAMERA notes, only days earlier, the "Palestinian Authority renamed a public square in Ramallah after Dalal al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist responsible for the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 civilians (including 13 children and an American photographer) were murdered and 71 wounded."

See Melanie Phillip's 12 March comment in the Spectator: "Is this why the Palestinians 'deserve' a state, Mr Biden?"

See also this confronting and moving 17 March piece in the LA Times by Ron Kehrmann, Yossi Mendelevich and Yossi Zur (all victims of Palestinian terror), who simply ask, "Why glorify the murderers?"

After adding that Dalal al-Mughrabi's name already adorns a girl's school in Hebron, Kehrmann, Mendelevich and Zur ask: "What message is the Palestinian Authority trying to send to the Palestinian people, especially to the children growing up under its rule? [. . .] How can terrorists use children as human shields in fire exchanges? Where are the parents, teachers, community leaders? How does a society have a suicide-murderer waiting list of 500 young Palestinians wanting to kill themselves along with Israelis, as was the case during the worst days of the second intifada, when a terror attack occurred almost daily?"

And their answer: "The answers lie in years of brainwashing, which starts at a very young age, through education and religious television channels, mosque prayers and lessons that make people believe that death is better than life; that killing innocent people, without distinction, will improve Palestinian life.

"The answers are rooted in years of glorifying the murderers, putting their posters on streets, giving their families money and respect, and yes, in naming city squares after them.

"These children are taught to hate Israelis and Jews and to disrespect their own lives."

Now Hezballah scoops the pool

DEBKA reports (17 March) that Iran's Lebanese proxy, the Hizballah militia, has set up a Palestinian operations unit for 2,000 new recruits from the Lebanese Fatah. Fatah commander Col. Munir Maqdah, led the mass defection. "The first major Palestinian defection to the Shiite Hizballah has given Iran and its proxy a large foot inside Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization and swelled Hizballah's fighting strength by some 15 percent."

DEBKA notes: Col. Munir Maqdah not only acted as liaison between Fatah and al Qaeda's affiliates in Lebanon, such as Fatah al-Islam, he also maintained close ties with Palestinian terrorist sleeper cells in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin. His networks and contacts are now available to Tehran.

See: More than 2,000 Fatah defect to Hizballah, Iran's first big Palestinian gain
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 17, 2010.


UPDATE: I have been advised by a long-time and respected analyst of Middle East affairs, that DEBKA is not a totally reliable source.

However, on 18 March, Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's attempt in January to restructure Fatah in Lebanon sparked considerable aggitation.

"Residents of the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh near Sidon have been expressing pessimism and frustration over the matter and have voiced doubts about the faction’s unity and goals."


Abbas controversially dismissed Fatah leader Col. Munir Maqdah, "the head of the Palestinian Armed Struggle in Lebanon", and this appears to have caused a deep rift between Abbas and Maqdah. Tensions have been escalating ever since.

According to The National (Arab Emirates) (24 Feb), the new Fatah commander's mandate to rid the camps of extremists reportedly provoked "a cycle of murder, revenge and intrigue that threatens security not only in the camp itself, but in the nearby city of Sidon, according to numerous officials, residents and observers of life in Lebanon’s most crowded and dangerous square kilometre."

The National describes "a confrontation and a meeting of influential camp officials, led by Abu Ahmed of Hamas and Munir al Maqdah, a rogue Fatah commander with close ties to the Islamist groups who maintains a powerful militia in the camp."

On Sunday 21 March, Maqdah told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that he had not defected to Hezballah and that such a story is aimed purely at "inciting the international community against Hezballah and the Palestinian camps and creating more division within the Fatah movement."

This is certainly a situation to be watching.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

The Persecution of Palestinian Christians

Date: Tuesday 7 February 2006
Subj: Palestinian Territories - 1.
The Persecution of Palestinian Christians.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


A detailed and scholarly description of the suffering of Palestinian Christians can be found in a recently published work entitled: "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society" by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. (The monograph may be downloaded freely from this site, but it is also available through Amazon.)

Professor Weiner commences his monograph with a brief look at the wider issue of "Christians living in a Muslim world". He notes, "Despite the liberal and secular trends that gained strength from the middle of the nineteenth century, this statute [Islam] continues, to this day, to influence cultural, social, and legal practices. Moreover, the recent resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism entails a reversion to historical, cultural, and religious traditions that do not reflect modern social standards."

Pros. Weiner then narrows his focus to examine the plight of Christians under Palestinian Authority (PA) rule. He notes that the Palestinian Authority's Draft Constitution declares that "...in the State of Palestine... the religion of Islam will be the official religion", and "the Sharia will be the primary source of legislation".

As Weiner explains, the PA's promotion of Sharia (Islamic Law) immediately placed Christians in a precarious position, as Sharia does not afford them equality before the law. Escalating hardship and lawlessness, combined with the inequity of Sharia, makes Palestinian Christians exceedingly vulnerable, and their life increasingly unbearable. According to Prof. Weiner, while the intifada and the economy are significant factors forcing Christians to flee the Palestinian Territories, religious persecution at the hands of increasingly intolerant Muslims is the primary catalyst.

Prof. Weiner's research indicates that the present high rate of Christian emigration out of the Palestinian Territories is not normative, but a response to a phenomenon. He believes that the phenomenon that is driving Palestinian Christians from their homeland is the escalating hostility and persecution they are experiencing due to the dramatic escalation of Islamic extremism in the PA-administered territories. He says this is a direct result of the systematic and pervasive radicalisation of Palestinian Muslim society.

School curriculum in PA-run schools is infamous for its glorification of suicide bombers, its radical Islamic fundamentalism, its denial of Israel's right to exist, and its denigration of non-Muslims. As a pre-election Hamas video boasts, "We succeeded, with Allah's grace, to raise an ideological generation that loves death like our enemies love life." (Link 1)

For more information on the what Palestinian children and youths have been fed through PA-run schools and media, see links below.

Weirner describes the persecution of Christians as "diverse and widespread", adding that "institutionalised discrimination pervades virtually all realms of life and has become an inexorable part of Palestinian Christian existence".

In his monograph Prof. Weirner details the various forms this diverse, widespread, institutionalised discrimination and persecution takes. In summary, Christian communities and individuals suffer the following:

MARGINALISATION

The deliberate and strategic marginalisation of Christians in the Palestinian Territories is achieved by means of gerrymanders combined with Muslim immigration that alter the demographics of a formerly majority Christian area. This of course has drastic implications for local elections.

Bethlehem is a classic case. In 1990 Bethlehem was 60 percent Christian. After the PA acquired control of Bethlehem in 1994, Chairman Arafat extended the city's municipal borders to include the 30,000 Muslims living in nearby refugee camps. He also encouraged Muslims in Hebron to immigrate to Bethlehem. After nine Christians members of the Bethlehem City Council were driven to resign their posts in protest of Islamisationist policies, Arafat appointed a Muslim from Hebron as Governor of the Bethlehem District. The entire political structure of Bethlehem was then gradually cleansed of Christians. Christians are leaving. By 2001, Bethlehem was only 20 percent Christian.

BOYCOTTS AND EXTORTION

Christians suffer economic hardship as Muslims boycott their businesses. Islamic militants have also forced some Christians to close their businesses. The practice of extortion of Christian businesses is so widespread that one Christian businessman interviewed told Prof. Weiner, "There isn't a Christian businessman exempt." He said that around 90 percent of Christian businesses in Bethlehem have been forced to close. Those that remain in business are paying protection money to militants.

Christians in business in the Palestinian Territories are also harassed, beaten and robbed by PA police (Weiner cites examples). They are targeted simply because they are Christian. Refusal or inability to pay bribes can lead to torture and even death. These atrocities are committed with impunity.

NO PROPERTY RIGHTS

Prof. Weiner also explains that, in violation of international human rights norms, Palestinian Land Law prescribes the death penalty to anyone selling land to Jews. According to Weiner, Jerusalem's Arafat-appointed mufti, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri has issued a fatwa to the effect that death will be the penalty to anyone selling land to any non-Muslim. This law extends to Christians, so that they cannot sell land to each other.

In addition, adds Weiner, "...internationally recognised holy sites in the West Bank are threatened, being vandalised and desecrated by the PA without consequence." The impunity granted to those who attack Christians and Christian property only encourages Muslim criminals to break in to churches and monasteries to steal valuable items.

RAPE OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN

According to Weiner's research, violence against Christian women in the Palestinian Territories was rare before the PA took control. Christian women testify that before 1993, security was such that they could walk the streets in safety. However, after the PA took control, Christian women could be attacked with impunity. Weiner gives several reasons for the sharp rise in sexual violence against Christian women since the PA took control of the Palestinian Territories: the rise is Islamist attitudes (such as Muslim superiority and contempt of infidels); the denigration and relegation of Christians to dhimmi (second class citizen) status with limited rights and no equality before the law; combined with the PA's inaction, regardless of whether that is due to lack of authority or lack of will. Once again, Muslim criminals know they can rape Christian women without fear of retaliation or legal consequence.

Weiner reports that many Christian girls are being advised to dress as Muslims to avoid problems. "The abuse of Palestinian Christian women," writes Weiner, "extends well beyond verbal harassment and intimidation. The widespread occurrence of rape by Muslim men against Christian women exemplifies perhaps the most blatant denial of basic human rights as a result of religious identity."

One Palestinian Christian girl (aged 23) told Prof. Weiner that Muslim men often rape Christian women purely to render them undesirable to Christian men. "She can't get married, at all, after that," she said.

According to Weiner, Christian girls are also being forced into marriages with Muslim men. He retells the story of a wealthy Christian family man who had to resort to force to protect his daughter. A Muslim family came to his home, their son dressed for a wedding and accompanied by a sheikh and 15 Muslim men. They demanded that he hand his daughter over for marriage. After opening fire on the Muslim entourage, the Christian family had to immediately flee the Palestinian Territories. Other girls are less fortunate. There are even reports of PA officials leveling death threats at Christian families to force them to hand over their daughters for marriage to a Muslim.

PERVASIVE PA INCITEMENT

Prof. Weiner's research makes it clear that the negative attitudes held by Palestinian Muslims against their Christian counterparts are supported by the overwhelmingly Muslim PA leadership. Mosques broadcast sermons that drive home the Quranic injunction not to partner with, trust or befriend Jews or Christians, providing Muslims with religious justification for their religious intolerance.

Weiner quotes Joseph Farah, a Lebanese-American Christan editor of the WorldNetDaily online, as saying of Christians under the PA, "They are being driven out. They are being murdered. They are being raped. They are being systematically persecuted. They are being harassed. They are being intimidated." Weiner reports that Palestinian Christians under PA authority are discriminated against "...in the field of education, the receipt of medical benefits, and other government aid". A Lutheran pastor told Weiner, "...if food aid is brought in from Saudi Arabia, Christians are told that they are not entitled to receive any because they are not Muslims."

PA POLICE

According to Prof. Weiner, PA security personnel frequently combine ignorance of the law with Islamist sentiment to become persecutors rather than protectors. Christians are often imprisoned on trumped up charges of collaborating with Israel. Apostates can expect to be punished mercilessly through torture in PA prisons. Weiner writes, "The attitude of the police toward Christians constitutes one of the most egregious forms of institutional persecution... When subjected to harassment and worse by Muslim extremists, Palestinian Christians usually opt not to report incidents to the PA police... Palestinian Christians remain silent because they consider the PA police to be hostile to them."

ABUSE OF CHRISTIAN SITES

As has been well documented before, Islamic militants frequently choose to launch their attacks on Israel from Christian churches and homes, in order to draw the Israeli response to those sites.

CHRISTIAN DENIAL

Prof. Weiner's monograph contains material that will help people understand why Palestinian Christians are often quick to deny their suffering. Some Christian leaders deny the sufferings of Christians in order to retain privileges from the PA: for example, access to the media, or permission to travel – privileges that are granted in exchange of the dissemination of PA propaganda. Some deny the sufferings of Christians because they are simply blinded by Palestinian nationalist aspirations. But most are simply acting (or rather, not acting) out of fear of violent retribution – they are paralysed into silence by threat of terror, crippled by dhimmitude.

Weiner reports that one Christian cleric in Jerusalem compared the behaviour of Christian dhimmis to that of battered wives and children. A vulnerable, trapped, battered wife knows she cannot afford to provoke her abuser's wrath. For the victim it is easier, psychologically, to blame oneself (or to gain the approval of the abuser, blame the abuser's "enemy") and it is easier, physically, to avoid confrontation all together.

PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS: "SACRIFICIAL PAWNS"

Weiner recounts one horrific case of a Palestinian apostate and persistent evangelist named Ahmad El-Achwal, a married father of eight, who struggled for seven years with persecution that included severe torture in PA prisons (the horror of which is described in Weiner's text), as well as frequent severe beatings and death threats from Hamas. Ahmad El-Achwal was murdered on his doorstep by Islamic militants, on 21 January 2004. US State Department officials, who were fully informed, had persistently refused to address his case.

Weiner regards Palestinian Christians as the sacrificial pawns of the Middle East peace process. He writes, "The importance of monitoring the PA's record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated... The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance...," something Weiner fears is unlikely, at least in the short term.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

Teach Kids Peace. http://www.teachkidspeace.com/
Teach Kids Peace is affiliated with Middle East Media Watch. It
monitors and documents progress in children's education for peace.
This site contains analysis of Israeli and PA educational materials.
ALSO
2003 Palestinian Authority Textbook Calls for Jihad and Martyrdom
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2203
Incitement in the Palestinian Authority After the Aqaba Summit
http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2003

What now for the Christians of Hamastan?

Date: Tuesday 7 February 2006
Subj: Palestinian Territories - 2.
What now for the Christians of Hamastan?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Question: What sort of life are Palestinian Christians to expect now that Hamas has been elected to govern the Palestinian Territories? Answer: more of the same, and worse.

MORE OF THE SAME...

Hamas' electoral win is not a surprise result that cannot be explained. Hamas will not radicalise Palestinian Muslims. Hamas won the elections because the Palestinian Authority has already radicalised Muslim society to the extent that it freely elected a terrorist organisation as its government. Hamas' win is the culmination of decades of growing discontent – with the economy, violence and corruption – coupled with the increased radicalisation of Palestinian Muslim society.

Institutionalised discrimination, inequality, and pervasive persecution of Christians have been escalating in the Palestinian Territories for decades. When the Palestinian Territories came under Palestinian Authority (PA) administration after the Oslo Accords, security deteriorated and Islamic zeal and radicalisation increased. This has made life in the Palestinian Territories increasingly difficult for Christians. They live in a state of fear. Those who are able, emigrate. For a detailed scholarly description of the conditions suffered by Christians in the Palestinian Territories see "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society" by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner. (Link 1)

..AND WORSE
SECULAR ARAB NATIONALISM IS DEAD – ISLAM RULES


In a 31 January Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence Report, George Friedman comments on Fatah's loss of power in the recent Palestinian National Authority (PNA) elections. "It was not simply internal Palestinian politics that drove the Hamas victory. A wave of Islamist politics is sweeping the Muslim and Arab worlds, and the Palestinians are far from immune. The Islamist movement is doing far more than simply challenging the West: It is challenging the secular Arabists who were the heirs of the Nasserite tradition... In many ways, Fatah was the embodiment of secular Arabism -- the purest form of Nasserism. The Palestinians were among the most secular in the Arab world. Therefore, challenging and defeating Fatah represents a critical moment in the history of the Arab and Muslim world. It represents a new high-water mark for Islamists."

Friedman suggests that Hamas will be primarily concerned with internal, not international politics, as it works to consolidate its position. Hamas will therefore say and do those things that will increase the fervor of their followers and discourage their opponents. They will look to the Islamic world while provoking the West. The West will react to the benefit of Hamas which, as Friedman says, "benefits from a sense of embattlement – the sense that it is confronting the enemies of Islam. As it backs the Israelis and Americans into a corner, and both start reacting, Hamas will increase its strength and authority."

Even before its election victory, Hamas was preparing to further the Islamisation of the Palestinian Territories. In December 2005 the leader of the Hamas contingent at the municipal council of Bethlehem, Hassam El-Masalmeh, told The Wall Street Journal that Hamas intends to re-institute the "jizya", a tax mandated by the Qur'an (sura 9:29) to be imposed on non-Muslims who have chosen not to convert to Islam and must now pay for their right to life. (Jizya is a form of systematic religious humiliation, persecution and extortion). (Link 2)

On 3 February 2006, Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al gave a fiery speech at a mosque in Damascus that demonstrated clearly Hamas is not interested in peace or any dilution of Sharia (Islamic Law). In his speech Mash'al warns that "...the law of Allah cannot be changed or replaced", and threatens that Hamas is prepared "...to place the entire Palestinian people at the disposal of the resistance and its weapons". (Link 3) We need to ask: what will this mean for Palestinian Christians who do not support Islamic jihad?

SO WHAT NOW?


For years, the institutionalised discrimination against and persecution of Palestinian Christians has been covered up by Christian leaders who are either afraid of the consequences of upsetting the status quo, or afraid of losing their good standing with the PA; and by Western nations and human rights organisation that are only interested in appeasing and coaxing the Palestinian Authority into peace negotiations. Well the "status quo" (as intolerable as that was) has ended, and peace is not on the table.

Writing prior to the elections, Professor Justus Reid Weiner called on the PA to crack down on Hamas and eliminate its influence and role as an enforcer of Sharia. It is too late for that now that Hamas controls the PA. But as Friedman notes in his Stratfor commentary, "Since peace is always made with enemies, better to deal with your worst enemy than with hapless moderates." This is as good a time as any to commence advocacy on behalf of the persecuted Christians of the Palestinian Territories.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society"
by Prof. Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs.

2) "Democrats" For Jihad and Jizya
by Andrew G. Bostrom. 30 Dec 2005
http://www.americanthinker.com/articles.php?article_id=5116

3) Hamas Leader Khaled Mash'al at a Damascus Mosque
MEMRI (No 1087). 7 Feb 2006
http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD108706

Monday, September 12, 2005

West Bank: Taiba attack exposes Christian vulnerability.

Date: Monday 12 September 2005
Subj: West Bank: Taiba attack exposes Christian vulnerability.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Late on Saturday evening 3 September, a riotous, murderous Muslim mob from the West Bank village of Deir Jarir attacked the neighbouring Christian village of Taiba, northeast of Ramallah. They came armed with clubs, kerosene and Molotov cocktails, chanting, "Let's burn the infidels, let's burn the Crusaders." Residents were beaten, houses were looted and cars were burned. At least 13 homes were torched. The attack lasted until the early hours of Sunday morning when Palestinian Authority (PA) security police finally made it through the Israeli checkpoints.

The Muslims were searching for Christian shop-keeper Mehdi Khouriyye (also written as "Mahdi Abu Houria") and targeting the homes of his extended family. PA police arrived just in time to save Mehdi Khouriyye from being lynched, but not in time to save the homes of all his relatives. Mehdi Khouriyye and 15 of the Deir Jarir Muslim attackers were then arrested. But after several hours, the police released the Muslims in order to "cool things down". (Link 1) Meanwhile, victim Mehdi Khouriyye remains in "protective custody", where he is reportedly routinely beaten.

Whilst Muslim intolerance of Christians has escalated, the attack on Taiba is the biggest and most organised Muslim attack upon a Palestinian Christian community in years. Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi regards the Taiba attack as a "a very serious development". She says she has witnessed a "regression of social norms". (Link 2)

The implications for vulnerable Palestinian Christians, especially if the PA police are going to be partisan, are horrendous.

FROM LOVE TO TRAGEDY

Mehdi Khouriyye, has a tailoring business in Taiba. He employed Hiyam Ajaj (30), a Muslim woman from Deir Jarir, and the two fell in love. The pair had been in a romantic relationship for two years before Hiyam's family learned of the affair in late August (2005). Making matters worse, Hiyam was six months pregnant. Within days, she was dead, poisoned by her own family in an honour killing. Hiyam's body was then quickly buried and the death not reported.

Initially the family claimed that Hiyam was raped and had committed suicide. Insisting the baby was not his, Mehdi Khouriyye requested that Hiyam's body be disinterred for DNA testing. The Guardian reports that Palestinian president Abu Mazen gave permission for Hiyam's body to be exhumed and for DNA testing to be done to determine paternity. Despite the family's protests, Hiyam's body was disinterred on Tuesday 30 August.

According to the Guardian, Palestinian women's groups claim that if a woman is raped by a family member then she will be killed to restore family honour and an innocent man will be blamed – made a scapegoat – and killed in "revenge". (Link 3)

The 3 September Muslim attack on Taiba has left at least 13 Christian families homeless. The Muslims attackers from Deir Jarir seek to justify their criminal barbarity with talk of "honour". Meanwhile the Christians of Taiba say the violence against them was inspired by pure religious hatred and was nothing less than Muslims using vulnerable Christians as scapegoats.

CHRISTIAN FEARS

Suleiman Khouriyye, a cousin of Mehdi Khouriyye, blames sectarianism. "They did this because we're Christians. They did this because we are the weaker ones." (Link 2)

Samir Qumsieh runs the only Christian private TV channel in the West Bank, the Bethlehem-based al-Mahed ("The Nativity") which is struggling for funds. (Link 1).

Qumsieh told Adnkronos International (AKI), "Many cases like this are happening and the time has come for Abu Maazen (PA president Mahmoud Abbas) to take a decisive stand." Qumsieh told AKI that he has registered more than 100 attacks against the Christian community since 2003. Qumsieh calls the violence "religious racism", and says the attacks include murders, rapes and extortion.

"Some people lay the blame on Islamic extremists," he says, "but this is only part of the truth." Qumsieh says the most common attacks are perpetrated by what he calls "the Muslim land mafia", criminals who target Christian land or home owners and threaten them with the aim of forcing them off their property. Qumsieh believes PA officials are involved in this practice. "It was the situation under [former PA president] Arafat and it is the situation under Abu Maazen," he says.

In February, Samir Qumsieh, together with other prominent Christian Palestinians, wrote a letter to the PA president outlining their fears and grievances. "We have had no reply," he says, "and our anger and our fear are growing."

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Houses torched as Muslim -Christian tensions flare.
AKI, 6 Sept 2005
http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Religion&loid=8.0.204471774&par=0

2) Honour killing feud exposes rift between Palestinian Muslims and
Christians. LARA SUKHTIAN (AP), 7 Sept 2005
http://www.cbc.ca/cp/world/050905/w090583.html
http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Security/6505.htm

3) Homes razed in mob fury at couple's 'affair'
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem, 5 September 2005
http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1562709,00.html

ALSO
Muslims ransack Christian village
By Khaled Abu Toameh, 6 Sept 2005
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1125831262546