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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West

hamas 1The West is floundering in immorality and has no right to criticise the Islamist movement Hamas over the way it governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza, a veteran leader of the militant group said. Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Reuters in an interview that Islamic traditions deserved respect and he accused Europe of promoting promiscuity and political hypocrisy. (Photo: Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip October 23, 2010/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

"We have the right to control our life according to our religion, not according to your religion. You have no religion, You are secular," said Zahar, who is one of the group's most influential and respected voices.

"You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticise us?" he said, speaking from his apartment building in the densely populated Mediterranean city.

Hamas, which is an acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement and means "zeal" in Arabic, won a fair, 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election and then seized control of Gaza in 2007 after routing rival forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mia Farrow visits Israel and the Palestinian territories


miafarrow.jpgU.S. actress and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow ended her week-long trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories today, after visiting the Gaza Strip, the southern Israeli town of Sderot and Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

She has been focusing on projects in Africa for the past several years but said “it was time” for her to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. “My cause is children suffering in conflict zones, and this is the place for it,” she told Reuters.

Tunnel smugglers in Gaza


By: Suhaib Salem
When you walk inside the border area between Gaza Strip and Egypt, the first thing you see are hundreds of tunnels, used by smugglers to bring goods into the Gaza Strip. Building any tunnel is a hard task that requires precise care. Tunnel smugglers need to supply the underground passageway with electricity, air and a telecommunications unit.

Working underground is like living on another planet. Going down inside one of these tunnels is a very terrifying venture. Darkness fills the entire tunnel, which runs deep and long. Some small lamps are hung to light the way, cables lie on the ground and intercoms connect one side of the border to the other. These intercoms are used by the smugglers to enable the one who based on the Egyptian side to contact his colleague on the Palestinian side. After walking a few steps inside the tunnel, you hear humming from neighboring smugglers digging their own tunnels. Sometimes one tunnel breaches the wall of its neighbor, putting both in danger of collapse. Different types of tunnels are used for certain tasks. The food smuggling tunnel differs from the tunnel used for smuggling cattle or animals.

Clash of Islamists the talk of Gaza

- Ibn Taymea mosque

Coming home on Sunday after a long day at work, there was still no rest. Several of my neighbours in Gaza were escaping the late evening heat of their apartments to sit outside our building chatting about the previous two days that had seen the bloodiest inter-Palestinian fighting in two years, between forces of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and gunmen of an al Qaeda-style group. It left 28 people dead.

Knowing I’ma journalist, and discovering that I had been at the scene of the clashes, down in the south of the Gaza Strip at Rafah, the neighbours started bombarding me with their questions. Most of them were confused about what exactly happened between these two groups, which both endorse Islam as a political ideology.

In the firing line


PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/GAZA-AMNESTYIsrael’s military has been hit with a barrage of human rights reports this week. One, by the Israeli human rights group Gisha, criticises Israel’s policy of banning Palestinians from leaving the Gaza strip. The Red Cross has also filed a report, “Gaza: 1.5 Million People Trapped in Despair,” as well as a film(Gaza: Paying the Price) criticising Israel’s three-week incursion into Gaza last winter, known as “Operation Cast Lead.”

Meanwhile, former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone has begun collecting evidence about Operation Cast Lead for the UN Human Rights Council.

First Palestinian Animated Film Treads Lightly on Heavy Subject


The true story of a young Gazan woman’s futile battle against breast cancer has been commemorated in the first-ever Palestinian animated commercial film. “Fatenah” debuted last night in the West Bank city of Ramallah, at the Al-Kasabah Theater, and was received by a large and enthusiastic audience.

“I liked the balance of tragedy and comedy,” said one viewer. “It was depressing but also a very accurate picture of how Palestinians have to try and get health care, being treated as less than human beings.”

Following the money from Washington to the West Bank…





By encouraging foreign investment in the Palestinian economy, and notably the part of it controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas rather than the Hamas Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip, the United States and its allies hope to create conditions more conducive for long-stalled peace talks with Israel to succeed.

Israel, too, led by the government installed this month under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is hoping for an “economic peace” with the Palestinian Authority.

Wanted: an ethical code of war



    International law governing the conduct of war is based on the traditional model of two armies on a battlefield. It fails to apply effectively to ‘terrorist conflicts’ and provides insufficient response to the ethical dilemmas that arise.

    Until effective international law is developed to regulate the ‘war on terror’, no decisive ethical code will exist. This is not only a challenge for the Israeli military. It is shared by all Western armies fighting to preserve core democratic values.

A new thought?


It’s not every day you hear a new thought in what is one of the modern world’s oldest and most intractable conflicts. I’m not sure I heard one today. But I might have, in speaking to a Hamas official in Gaza. Let me share it with you.

GazaAyman Taha, the Hamas official recently returned from Cairo, was largely filling us in on negotiations he has been party to with Fatah, Hamas’s arch-rival, with a view to mending the two-year-old schism that has crippled Palestinian politics and seen Hamas seize control of the Gaza Strip while Fatah retains the West Bank. Although we would, later in the day, hear of firmer plans to resume these reconciliation talks in Egypt, Taha limited his view of the good news largely to the fact that talks were happening at all. The bad news, he said, was that the two sides were still far apart on core issues. That’s a pretty familiar refrain on many aspects of the Middle East conflict.

Captured Israeli soldier’s parents take protest to Olmert’s doorstep


Dubbed Israel’s most polite protesters by one Israeli newspaper columnist, the parents of captured soldier Gilad Shalit have set up a protest tent outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Jerusalem residence to press for his release.



Shalit, 22, has been held since 2006 by militants from Hamas and two other groups who tunnelled into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Hamas has demanded Israel release hundreds of its members held in Israeli prisons in exchange for the soldier.