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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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from FaithWorld:

Don’t preach to us, Hamas tells secular West

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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.

“Big Brother” bumbles into West Bank

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bb2_3112_live_boker5It’s a reality television show whose contestants are isolated from the outside world, but “Big Brother” in Israel has managed to set off yet another controversy over Palestine policies.

Cameras at the studio-cum-commune outside Jerusalem caught Edna Canetti, a 54-year-old liberal activist, telling fellow residents over the weekend she wanted to see a peaceful popular campaign against Israel’s West Bank occupation.

O Hamas where art thou?

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PALESTINIANS/Hamas has kept a pretty low profile in the West Bank recently–when will that change?

According to recent polls in both Israel and the West Bank, both Israeli and Palestinian populations are looking to see Hamas step up to the plate in negotiations. But that might not be enough to make Hamas willing to resurface in the West Bank just yet.

“Little Palestine”

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palestinianflagPalestinian reconciliation efforts suffered another setback when President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree for presidential and parliamentary elections on Jan. 24, a move that was rejected by the Islamist group Hamas. Egypt has been mediating for over a year to heal the split between Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas but the two rivals have continuously failed to reach a unity agreement. (Read our Q&A to understand why the two Palestinian factions fail to reach an agreement on Cairo’s latest proposal.) Most Palestinians believe a unity deal is crucial to achieving Palestinian statehood but don’t think an agreement is likely. However, the rare case of successful Fatah-Hamas partnership in the West Bank village of Beita might convince them otherwise.

Elected leaders of this town come from different backgrounds and political affiliations but all serve on the same council, working in synergy to build a robust independently-funded infrastructure – a rarity in the Palestinian territories.

Mahmoud Abbas “on trial”

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A youth group in the Gaza Strip held a mock trial for the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday. The Youth Parliament, a group under the media department of the Islamist group Hamas, prosecuted Abbas on charge of “betraying the blood of the martyrs and the injured”.

The charge was in reference to Abbas’s agreement to defer the vote on the Goldstone Report at the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier this month. Many human rights groups have been pressing nations to endorse the UN report critical of the Gaza War seeing it as a way to hold both Israel and Hamas accountable for the hundreds of civilian deaths in the devastating war. The vote on the Goldstone Report was delayed to next March, which looked like a victory for Israel, and some Palestinians charged his decision had raised serious questions about Abbas’s leadership. Abbas, doing some damage control, pledged to push for an exceptional UNHCR session, which is being held on Wednesday. (Read more here.)

Gazan zebra, the wild donkey

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Palestinian children in Gaza received a very special treat today. They had the opportunity to see a zebra in flesh. Well, a “zebra”.

A small Gaza zoo dyed two female donkeys white and striped the two using women’s hair-dye and a paint brush. It charged $15 for a full busload of children to meet the zebras – a bargain for an animal that would have cost $40,000 to bring to the Israel-blockaded Gaza.

Palestinian Non-Alcoholic Beer

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taybehThe fifth annual Palestinian Oktoberfest was held on October 3rd and 4th, at the mainly Christian town of Taybeh, West Bank. Located several kilometers north of Ramallah, Taybeh, is home to the first and only Palestinian beer – Taybeh Beer. Established in 1995, Taybeh Beer can also be found abroad, being sold and distributed in Germany, the United Kingdom and even Japan.

The two-day beer festival celebrates the town’s now famed beverage and markets other local Palestinian products such as olive oil, honey, and embroidery to international visitors, as an effort to boost the Palestinian economy.

The Opportunity Cost

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(Read the English transcript of Shalit’s video message here.)

It’s been two days since the exchange of the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s proof-of-life video for Israel’s release of 20 Palestinian female prisoners. The final prisoner of the 20 was freed today as the last step to the soldier-video swap.

After being made public, the video has been replayed nonstop on television, radio, and video web-hosting sites. As of Monday, the endless number of video uploads by individual users on Youtube had each been viewed over at least 40,000 times.

Predicting a Third Intifada

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Picture 3.pngLast week: Sunday – clashes in the Old City of Jerusalem which to some resemble the events that led to the outbreak of the Second Intifada nine years ago; Tuesday – shooting by Palestinians wounds an Israeli motorist in the West Bank; Wednesday – an Israeli Army jeep hitting and killing a 17-year-old Palestinian. (Read more about the September 27th, 2009 clashes here.)

This week: Sunday again – hundreds of Arabs clash again with police in the Old City of Jerusalem. Police briefly block all access to the  al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Peace Without Hamas?

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According to International Peace Institute’s (IPI) new poll conducted in both Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank administered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement, Palestinians still offer substantial support for the Islamist Hamas group for being “the party of resistance”.

IPI said 55 percent of Palestinians favor a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which shows a shift in Palestinian public opinion towards greater willingness to accept “the overall package and of provisions for Israeli withdrawal, Palestinian demilitarization, and mutual recognition.”

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